Closing A Gap With A Competitive Advantage

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My regional, corporate peers would likely agree with the following statement: UNC Charlotte consistently produces quality, talented graduates from their many disciplines, including business, engineering, health and human services, the sciences and more. However, what my peers and I have not consistently seen in the applicant pool (from any institution) is talent specifically cross-trained in their technical skills AND in business. From my leadership roles in different divisions, both at Lowe’s and other organizations, I have noticed this talent gap over the years.

Pay attention, fellow business leaders: that gap is about to close.

Our region’s leading partner in academia, UNC Charlotte is set to award diplomas to the first graduating class of the Belk College of Business Master of Science in Management. This is a unique graduate program that is exclusively for students with a bachelor’s in any non-business area. Upon entering this accelerated graduate program, they are immersed in business skills, resulting in a cross-trained, polished young professional.

On the Board of Advisors of the Belk College, I have had an inside view of this new program, and understand from a close perspective what these promising, new graduate students will have to offer.

Industry-experienced faculty are grounding these non-business students in the needed sciences of finance, economics, organizational design and more. By adding business acumen to their already strong technical skills, these graduates will be primed to lead the technical functions of their work team while also adding value through a more strategic business lens.

Regardless of industry, I’ve witnessed how collaboration can lead to positive results among inter-departmental teams and even entire companies. The strongest candidate often has a diverse background, giving that person the beneficial perspective to collaborate with different viewpoints toward a common goal. The students in the M.S. in Management cohort collaborate together daily on multi-discipline teams. For example, a project team may include an engineer, a public health graduate, a graphic designer and a political scientist – all working together. By layering their unique lenses to complete the task at hand, these students are learning not only business but also collaboration.

Many new hires join an organization directly out of college and often experience a long, steep learning curve as they assimilate to the corporate language and business needs. However, the students that take the extra year to earn their M.S. in Management are intentionally preparing themselves to more easily scale the learning curve and more quickly contribute at a higher level. As a previous SVP of Talent Management at Lowe’s, I appreciate how valuable this will be once graduates become candidates, then hired employees.

Competitive advantage is key – true for company brands as well as candidates. As non-business graduates enroll in the M.S. in Management, they are working to set themselves apart with an added layer of capabilities. Likewise, they are demonstrating the type of goal-setting and forward action that you can expect from them on the job as well.

Business community, be sure to pay close attention to this program. The graduates will be among your applicants and extended networking circles. They will likely stand out with their competitive set of capabilities. And they will be proactive in their field and ready to contribute. I’ll be watching for them. Will you?

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