In an Inside Higher Ed piece recently, Michael Bugeja recommends colleges “underwrite professorial externships in the summer so that faculty can better provide career advice.” Bugeja directs the Greenlee School, home of Iowa State University’s journalism and mass communications program.
I’ve long advocated teachers getting summer jobs in their fields, even just filling in for a vacationing employee for a couple of weeks, to increase their awareness of what kinds of skills entry-level students are expected to do. Journalism faculty, however, are not representative of higher education faculty generally.
Journalism faculty typically have hands-on experience in journalism. They may not have hands-on experience with the latest methods or latest technologies, but they typically have a solid foundation in the basics. They wouldn’t go into a news organization as entry-level people. They should be able perform some useful work while they are updating their knowledge and skills.
I’m not at all sure college faculty are likely to have equivalent hands-on experiences in jobs that require knowledge and skill cultivated in their disciplines. Lack of job experience would make them much more expensive to place at a job site than someone with relevant job experience.
Despite those reservations, however, I think Bugeja’s idea of summer externships for faculty has merit particularly for:
- community colleges
- vocational training programs
- alternative education programs, including credit recovery
- “career track” high school programs
Faculty in those programs need to know what’s being done in their fields in their communities to an even greater degree than college faculty whose students disperse around the country, if not around the world.
Of course, those institutions are typically far less able to afford externships for their instructors than higher education. However, if the local business community sees the institutions attempting to meet their needs for trained employees, they might band together to underwrite some summer externships.
For that idea to work, someone in either the education or the business community has to suggest it, find others in both communities to support it, and do the grassroots evangelism to make it work.