Thursday, March 28, 2013

"Junior Manager" Training for PhD Students

Peter Fiske, at naturejobs, has a great opinion on how graduate training can be improved:
Academia might do well to look to the private sector for a model that broadens the soft skills of PhD holders and expands their prospects. Many businesses offer their executives short, intensive training programmes that stimulate their professional development in key areas such as leadership, innovation and management. ... The goal is simple: to develop the capabilities of junior managers without costing a lot in terms of time, money or disruption to their jobs.
Very well put!  Of course, there has to be buy-in from faculty, schools, and students, and people will definitely need to get over the perception that this is a more 'corporate' culture of training.  In closing, Fiske highlights one last challenge with the scheme: Money.
But how to finance them? Those who benefit should pay. That includes not only funding agencies, but also students. They might pay through general student fees. Even better — to ensure that they are fully invested — they might devote credits to an actual course on career planning 
While the question of paying more for this kind of "extra" training is just one about numbers, I would argue that it be included in current tuition fees, which hover around $6,000 to $8,000 annually (and up from there, if you're in the United States).  After paying for my PhD coursework (which in retrospect was a more or less average value for my educational dollars), tuition dollars seemed to fall into a black hole of university upkeep and expensive paper shuffling, especially in the late stages of a PhD when my demands on the school were almost nothing.  It would have been great to take courses like Fiske describes, even if only a break from writing a thesis!