Wed, Feb 04, 2009 - Page 8 News List

Calling on academia for assistance

By Yang Yung-nane 楊永年

After talking to people in the high-tech sector and reading media reports, it became clear that the problem of unemployment caused by large businesses laying off their workers is more serious than I had imagined. For example, more than 50,000 people recently filed applications when a central government agency started looking for people to fill about 100 part-time, non-contract positions.

There are many upsetting stories of laid-off workers doing everything they can to restart their careers.

However, there are also many people who have chosen to take unpaid leave from work because they are not willing to lose their jobs. Though not officially unemployed, those people represent a major part of the current unemployment crisis.

The Council of Labor Affairs is well aware of the potential crisis that could result from companies laying off workers or forcing them to take unpaid leave. The council has issued many regulations to prevent companies from claiming they are giving their employees unpaid holidays when they are in fact making them redundant or cutting their salaries.

However, in light of the prevailing slow economic growth, the council’s efforts are inadequate.

The unemployment situation in the US is also serious. However, some people have said that the US’ most important resource in dealing with the crisis is its universities. This is a sensible argument and we should encourage universities and research organizations to develop cooperation between industry and academia, as this is the best way to save our businesses and solve the unemployment problem.

Three arguments support this view.

First, universities and research organizations possess abundant research resources that can be used to solve problems. For universities, any governmental, economic or social problem is worthy of research and the more intricate the problems, the more of a challenge they hold for researchers. Promoting cooperation between business, government and academia is crucial because academia can help businesses find solutions to their problems.

There are various modes of cooperation between industry and academia. For example, National Tsing Hua University will soon be offering free classes for the business sector. This move is not only a way for the university to fulfill its social responsibility, but also directly provides unemployed workers or those who have been forced to take unpaid leave with a way to increase their skills, while also being a potential force for social stability.

Second, universities possess a diverse range of skills that can be used to create added value to human resources. Those recently unemployed or people forced to take unpaid leave are a diverse group and some may feel that it is important to further their education while others may need an income to support their families.

For example, at National Cheng Kung University, there are nine colleges and 80 departments, each having its own special area of expertise.

More diverse cooperation between industry and academia could give the unemployed and those on unpaid leave more study, employment or development opportunities. This could also give businesses a more diverse pool of skilled workers to choose from, thus creating the added value of diversifying the labor pool, which could contribute both to individuals and industry.

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