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Strategic Leadership Hub: Effective University-Industry Interaction

In 2015, Rita Santos Silva and Valquíria Dias published “Strategic Leadership Hub; An Example for Promoting Effective University-Industry Interaction” in the University Industry Innovation Network’s Good Practice Series. Here, almost a year on, Santos Silva reveals more about the origins, trends and challenges, and future progression of this case study in Porto, Portugal.

The Strategic Leadership Hub (SLH) is an in-house structure of Católica Porto Business School, committed to developing soft skills, building careers and fostering entrepreneurship and employability. SLH works on a customized basis promoting the soft skills required for students and alumni to be high-quality professionals and effective leaders in a globalized, competitive and changing environment. Regarding soft skills development, SLH provides several initiatives such as skills development workshops, assessment centres, coaching processes and supports project-based courses embed into the curricula.


With regards to career development, SLH organizes recruiting seminars, career counselling, mentoring and also foments international mobility, namely through internship experiences abroad.

As for entrepreneurship and employability, SLH supports managerial and project challenges, university-business projects, strictly articulates with the University’s incubator lab and gathers and promotes internship and job opportunities for both students and alumni.


In 2008 this project was recognized as a pertinent employability and entrepreneurship promoter in the context of the international project EETUE – “Employability & Entrepreneurship: Tuning Universities & Enterprises”. In 2010 the OECD designated the project as an innovative practice regarding skills development. In May 2012 the concept was ranked among the eight best European practices in what concerns skills development in Higher Education; it was also classified as the most active project in the New Skills Network final conference in Copenhagen. Our most important success factors are our employability rates and students’ satisfaction with the processes, and teachers’ and companies’ representative’s feedback.


Besides the students’ development that the targets and stakeholders recognize, according to the Employability Observatory and the Students’ Profile of the Católica Porto Business School, in 2012/2013, 91% of the graduates found a job in less than 10 months after graduation (out of which 81% in less than 8 months and 51% in less than 2 months). 15% of our students had already found a job before graduating. The more expressive areas of professional integration are consultancy, auditing, finance and insurance companies (30%). It is also important to point out that 50% of those students had already done an internship or developed a business plan.


The biggest barrier we recognize in the project is the urgent need to assess the actual role of SLH in promoting students’ successful transitions to the labour market. Therefore, it is important to build instruments that may systematically appraise the impact of overall SLH’s programmes on students’ personal and professional development. To respond to this challenge, research is being carried out as part of my PhD (2012 – 2016) and it is expected that the results will help SLH to adapt and improve its intervention and curriculum development, as well as helping get a better understanding regarding actual market needs and trends.


Once there is ongoing research that will help us understand the impact of our coaching processes in students’ effective development and market placement, we are testing evaluation instruments already built and we expect to publish some results during 2016.


About Rita Santos Silva

The origin of my interest in the topic of entrepreneurship

I have worked as a psychologist at SLH since 2010, so my motivation in researching on the topic started at that time, once I engaged in the project and realized its impact on the community. Besides that, once our work has been recognized as an innovative approach, we think it is our role to disseminate our practices and develop further investigation in order to validate our actions and results.


The biggest trends and challenges facing the area of university-industry interaction

The relationship between what universities seek to promote and what the labour market requires is a well-known discussion. From our experience, we believe that the key to overcoming this gap lies in encouraging transferable skills development and curriculum innovation. Cooperative and extracurricular activities at the campus and school-to-work programs, internships and international experiences should be held to promote skills development, thereby increasing both graduates’ self-awareness and the opportunity for them to demonstrate their employability ability in a changing labour market. Permanent interaction with business representatives (moments for feedback and debate) allows universities to keep the profile requirements in mind and readjust practices in order to develop students’ mindsets to better respond to companies’ requests and challenges.


A similar case I would like to recommend to UIIN readers:

When our project was awarded one of the eight best European practices with regards to skills development in Higher Education, in 2012, we came to know about the work of New Skills Network. At the final conference, we were able to identify some interesting projects in skills upgrading and matching. You can find more information about the innovative projects and issues debated at the conference in the final report.



You can read Rita and Valquíria’s full Good Practice Case Study, here. 

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