Industry experts at the top of their careers are increasingly branching out into a parallel career in lecturing, owing to the great demand for their skills and the opportunity of broadening their experience.
Locally and internationally, there has been a steady increase in the number of industry expert, part-time academic staff employed in the higher education sector, which means that students get the most up-to-date exposure to their future industries, while their lecturers are able to diversify their career portfolios.
This growth in demand means that people with a great track record in their sector, who are considering their next moves, have real options in a new sector – education – which they may not even have considered before.
In today’s educational and economic climate, the direct link between the higher education institution and industry has become an imperative.
To close the gap between education and industry, and to ensure graduates are work-ready, good institutions are deliberately seeking industry experts to become part of their teaching faculty. In particular high demand, are individuals who remain active in their profession and are therefore current in their particular field, so that real-world credibility is embedded into the curriculum and its delivery.
Professionals who are interested in making a contribution to the higher education of the next generation, should take note that there are two very important criteria they need to fulfil before taking the next step in their career:
1) Their qualification must be one level higher than the level they wish to teach
This means that if they want to teach at honours level they would need a minimum of a Master’s degree, and to teach at degree level they would need a minimum of an Honours degree.
2) They need to be able to effectively teach their area of expertise
In the past, many institutions did not always invest sufficiently in ensuring they have educationally trained professionals, which meant that students ended up being lectured by people who were brilliant in their field, but unable to make their discipline accessible to students.
Being an expert in your profession does not mean that you necessarily have the skills to teach the theory behind your work, and some working people have forgotten what it means not to know the things that are now so familiar to them. This is where it is essential to receive training in education generally, and teaching and lecturing specifically.
Many institutions will now require registration on some form of additional qualification to ensure that the original qualification and subsequent experience is supplemented by a lecturing qualification. The 1-year Postgraduate Diploma in Higher Education, for instance, is designed to bridge the gap between disciplinary knowledge and educational expertise, and provides an ideal pathway into a sub-career or career in lecturing.
Industry experts who are qualified to become lecturers should contact an institution in their preferred geographical location which offers the kind of qualifications they would be interested in teaching.
It is important to then spend some time assessing whether the reason the institution is using part time industry active lecturers matches your aspirations. This can be measured by asking for information on how lecturers are on-boarded, inducted, developed and evaluated.
You may also offer to do a guest lecture in your area of expertise and assess the response of the staff and students. It will be relatively easy to determine from this why they want to employ industry active lecturers. An institution that cannot make good logistical arrangements for a guest is not likely to be an ideal working environment on a more sustained basis.
Lecturing as a parallel or sub career for industry active experts will form a significant part of the development of the future cohort of graduates and the next generation of experts.
There is no doubt that being lectured by someone who also has real life experience adds significantly to the educational experience of students when the lecturer is also a competent educator. One without the other does not result in good student outcomes.
Peter Kriel is the General Manager at The Independent Institute of Education.