In October, the University of Cincinnati and Microsoft announced a strategic agreement that aims to develop and attract tech talent in the region and to support the university’s goal of turning out more graduates who are digitally fluent. The partners plan to develop programs for skilling students, engaging faculty to solve core research and innovation initiatives, and enhance skilling programs for enterprise customers within the recently launched Cincinnati Innovation District. (Other district partners include Procter & Gamble, Kroger and Fifth Third Bank.)

To learn more about this partnership’s impact on UC and the broader community, Cincinnati Future spoke with David Adams, chief innovation officer at UC, and Chris Carper, director of Microsoft’s customer success team in Cincinnati. 

How important is developing talent?

Adams: It’s the number-one issue for every organization we talk to. Physical capital is no longer the constraint. Money, real estate—that’s not the constraint. Human capital is the constraint. Finding people you need in your organization, whether you’re a startup or a Fortune 500 company, is really critically important.

You’re talking about not just skilling people but also reskilling and upskilling them. Why?

Carper: Most organizations are becoming digital organizations. As they transform their technology platforms and their tools, they also have to transform their talent internally. Somebody who might be working on computer networks today might be a cloud network engineer tomorrow. The skillsets to do that are vastly different.

The Cincinnati Innovation District has a lot of partners. What makes this partnership unique?

Adams: Those partnerships are really all about connecting with talent. This partnership is really about developing talent—not only developing talent at the University of Cincinnati but as importantly developing the talent within the organizations as well.

Carper: We want to make Cincinnati a talent hub. We’re really excited about the opportunity that we have together to do that. These are two organizations that are very like-minded in terms of helping folks and their commercial entities be successful.

How does this partnership align with UC’s mission?

Adams: It’s really about rethinking higher education. Higher education traditionally has been “come get an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s or PhD and we’ll wish you well.” We’re starting to rethink this model and say that those things are still important but education no longer ends once you get your degree. It’s an ongoing environment for the rest of your life.

What else should local companies know about this partnership?

Carper: It really gives them the opportunity to have in their backyard a great institution that can deliver skilling at scale and help them transform their businesses. It’s a great opportunity partnering with the university and looking at the university as a skilling institution.