Guest Commentator: Richard M. Englert, President, Temple University @TempleUniv

Amid the current COVID-19 crisis, how can employers and institutions of higher education better partner together to ensure success now and in the future?

It’s not easy to lead through a crisis. However, that’s the opportunity every business leader has during these difficult times.

Already, you’ve had to make tough decisions to ensure the safety of your employees and the viability of your business. In many cases, the business you had at the start of the crisis will look very different from the business you have after it. Your workforce may soon include different people, teams may include fewer people, or the same people working in new roles and in new ways.

Today, I’d like to share a few thoughts on how businesses can partner with institutions of higher education not only to weather this storm, but to come through it stronger.

1. Educate.

While the skills you and your workforce require are rapidly changing, colleges and universities are evolving to identify and meet those needs with curriculum and programming that can be easily accessed and completed in a timely manner.

For example, at Temple University, our College of Public Health just introduced a certificate program for contact tracing, which is a 10-hour training program that provides workers with the skills necessary to track the spread of a disease in a population and notify those that have come into contact with an infected person. Already, employers and governments are hiring for this new, in-demand role.

Additionally, while higher education has always been a place for leaders and workers to increase their skills, now may be an optimal time to think about educating yourself or your workforce with a degree program, particularly those stepping into roles of increasing responsibility.

2. Connect.

Locating the best possible resources available right now could be the difference between the life and death of your business. To help, universities like Temple are working to connect the dots.

The Small Business Development Center at Temple’s Fox School of Business is currently helping employers navigate the various federal, state, and local programs offered to keep businesses afloat through the pandemic.

Our Center is assisting employers with everything from applying for emergency relief funding, to strategizing business model pivots, to helping set up new e-commerce platforms. This includes free and low-cost webinars, recordings, and consultations to keep businesses on track.

3. Network.

Colleges and universities are an important place for employers to network and build connections. If you went to a university locally, I encourage you to look for opportunities to remain engaged with your alma mater through its Alumni Association and through the various boards that support your field of interest.

If instead, your alma mater is far away, consider adopting a local university as your own. Your business likely employs and serves people from the universities around you, and if you adopt a local university as your own, you will find a huge network ready to embrace you, your ideas, and your expertise.

Institutions of higher education wouldn’t be as able to navigate crises like the one we face today if it weren’t for our network of creative and engaged business leaders providing their thoughtful guidance.

For example, at Temple University we have a very active Board of Trustees, including many successful CEOs, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists. Their expertise from the business world and their love and respect for higher education makes us so much stronger as a university.

In recent months, this board has been instrumental in scenario planning and decision-making in each of the steps required to transition our employees and our students to work and learn from home and to ultimately return to campus safely. That responsibility has been enormous. In many cases, these decisions are similar to the ones employers are facing.

By networking effectively, we can and will get through this together.

Finally, I would like to offer my encouragement to all of you. This has not been an easy time for you, your employees, or your customers. Many tough days still lie ahead. However, you don’t have to go through this alone. Reach out to the educators and fellow employers around you for support, and plan today for the future you want to build. If there is anything Temple University can do to assist you and your employees, please contact us.

Temple University is a member of the Chamber’s Roadmap for Growth Action Team, a group 110+ Chamber members and partners united to engage with a broad range of civic and neighborhood organizations in the development and execution of policies and initiatives.

Upcoming Event

[Virtual] Nonprofits & COVID-19: Measuring Impact
Tuesday, June 23, 2020 | 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. | Held via Zoom

Hear from nonprofit leaders as they discuss the importance of assessing impact and learn how to effectively use data to tell your story to funders, employees, and clients.