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Preparing for a professional life in the big leagues: what skills are expected of new entrants?

2024-06-11 16:04:00

Dr. Réka Franciska Vas, Vice Rector of Education at Corvinus and István Attila Szabó, Chairman and CEO of Garantiqa Hitelgarancia Zrt. shared their experiences in an interview on the occasion of the Corvinus CUBE international case competition.
Budapesti Corvinus Egyetem

After the success of several case competitions of Corvinus students abroad (e.g. in New York, Montreal, Sydney, Vancouver), this spring Corvinus University of Budapest has organized for the first time an international case competition together with its student organization Corvinus Case Track Community, which specializes in such competitions. The Budapest CUBE – Corvinus Undergraduate Business Experience 2024 – case study competition attracted 16 teams from all over the world and was supported by Garantiqa Hitelgarancia Zrt. On the occasion of the event, the company’s blog interviewed Dr. Réka Franciska Vas, Vice Rector of Education at Corvinus and István Attila Szabó, CEO of Garantiqa about their experiences at the competition, practice-oriented education, opportunities for graduates and the expectations of companies towards employees. 

 

What was the purpose of the CUBE case study competition? 

Dr Réka Vas: Our students have been participating in international case competitions around the world for more than 10 years, where they see, learn and experience a lot. We believe that universities that not only send teams to competitions, but also organise their own competitions, are more likely to perform at a high level in these competitions. Organising an international competition and actively participating in its organisation helps students and their teachers to work through the different cases, to understand the competition and the thinking of the jury. They can thus follow these processes from the very beginning, from the inside. By working with their corporate partners to write the cases themselves, consult with the judges and listen to their assessments and feedback, students can acquire the skills needed to compete successfully in a much deeper way. At the same time, having a professional excellence competition adds a lot to the reputation of the university.  

Thanks to the case competitions, Corvinus University has become part of an international community that includes the world’s leading business universities. These international competitions provide many opportunities to strengthen existing links and build further relationships. Now, not only our faculty but also our student community is ready to organise its own competition, with the creation of the Corvinus Case Track Community, a student organisation that brings together students who are interested in case management, are taking related courses and are competing in international case competitions. This provided the necessary background for the successful organisation and the students who became the organisers of the competition. 

 

What knowledge does the competition provide? What have the students improved the most? 

Dr. Réka Vas: A case competition mainly develops students’ problem solving and presentation skills. During CUBE, teams solved three cases, a preliminary case that they had completed in the two weeks before the competition, a 7-hour case and a 24-hour case. Competitors are expected to assess the market using a variety of analytical tools and then use the results to formulate a business strategy that provides the best possible solution to the problem they have identified. The case companies are active in different industries and the problems presented focus on different areas of business operations. A competition like this gives students the opportunity to see a range of practical examples from the business world and to learn more about industries that they might not otherwise have the opportunity to explore.  

Participants will also improve their ability to communicate information in a structured way. During the CUBE, students were able to try several presentation formats. For example, the preliminary case was presented in a pitch format, where the jury could stop the presentation and ask questions at any time except for the first and last few minutes. This mimicked a real business presentation, which is common practice in international case competitions. 

 

Why do we need practice-based or case-study-based education? Do you think students can use the knowledge they acquire as employees? 

Dr. Réka Vas: It is a natural need in a society that academic knowledge can be easily applied to the business world, as this increases the competitiveness of students in the rapidly changing labour market, strengthens their links with the professional world during their student years and, last but not least, provides them with greater motivation if they receive direct feedback on the practical benefits of what they have learned.  

However, it is important to remember that what is important professional knowledge today can easily become obsolete later in a student’s career. This is why we also place great emphasis on developing work-related skills in practice-oriented teaching, one of the great tools being the use of case studies, where students’ problem-solving, communication, persuasion skills, the ability to organise theoretical knowledge and apply it to concrete situations can be developed. These can later be key to success not only as employees but also as entrepreneurs. 

Attila István Szabó: First of all, let me start with a personal motive: it was very refreshing and inspiring for me to meet in these few days with so many prepared, enthusiastic, very smart young people from all over the world who are likely to become leaders, entrepreneurs and decision makers in the big companies of the future. I can also say with a sigh of relief that all is not lost if our future is in such hands. On the other hand, as a company manager, I have seen for years, decades, exactly how valuable theoretical and – perhaps increasingly important – practical knowledge can be a major competitive advantage for those entering the labour market after their university years. I believe that the development of problem-solving and communication skills, the ability to work together and creativity must be at the heart of modern, 21st century education and business education. And case competitions like CUBE can help students to do just that, because they develop skills during the very serious preparation and competition that are very much needed in business. Thanks to such programmes, they can start their careers with real knowledge, business skills and the ability to cope with challenging situations. Even at the competition, when I was evaluating the contestants’ work, I was confident that these young people, whatever their chosen career path, would be confident in their place in the corporate world. 

 

Why is it important to involve companies and the business community in the implementation of the programme? 

Dr. Réka Vas: The involvement of companies provides students with learning opportunities that reflect real-life challenges and situations. This will better prepare them for the real world of professional life: the job market and the corporate environment. By involving business partner professionals, we deliver up-to-date knowledge and current business trends right to the students. Through business partnerships, we as a university can better understand the current demands of the labour market and tailor our educational programmes and curricula accordingly.  

And companies also benefit from close university links because they have access to the latest scientific knowledge through our researchers and lecturers, which facilitates innovation or effective development, and they can learn about the mindset of the youngest generation and prepare for their entry into the labour market. 

Attila István Szabó: For us, it was a no-brainer to support the university’s international case study competition and to be a corporate sponsor of student development. As one of the most important financing partners for Hungarian SMEs, we at Garantiqa are in contact with tens of thousands of companies and we constantly monitor market changes and trends. However, it is an eternal truth for all sectors that to maintain a competitive edge in business, we need a professionally skilled workforce and up-to-date knowledge from our employees. This cannot happen without the work of higher education institutions and initiatives such as this. In the age of digitalisation, education and skills development must be a specific focus in the knowledge society. 

 

Garantiqa is a key player in the financing of domestic corporate finance, including the domestic SME sector, through our commercial banking partners. What is your experience, what is the experience of your partners, what skills and attitudes do employers expect from graduates? 

Attila István Szabó: As we have mentioned before, the ability to think on their feet, to react quickly to challenges and problems, to have a creative vision, to be project-oriented, to learn and even to have a managerial affinity are all important.

At the same time, young people themselves are coming to the workplace with new expectations, so there is a sense of change on both sides. At Garantiqa, we encourage all companies to keep up with the trends, to focus on innovation and digitalisation, to improve their operations and to reach out to the younger generation. I am confident that these are the competitive advantage for businesses in the market today.

 

What advice would you give to university students? How to prepare for the “world of work”? 

Dr. Réka Vas: Seize the university opportunities and make informed choices. Maintain an open mind, be ready for new challenges and continuous learning in line with labour market requirements, and start building your professional network. Look for opportunities that will help you develop and expand not only your professional but also your personal skills, such as teamwork, communication skills or time management. Here at Corvinus, we offer a myriad of such initiatives, from the Navigator career and life path planning platform and service, to student organisation events and entrepreneurship development support like the Boost programme. Have a colourful, meaningful life and don’t forget to enjoy your student years! 

Attila István Szabó: I can make similar suggestions, enjoy all the beauty and freedom of university life, but at the same time make the most of your opportunities and start building your future, even if only in small steps. As I said in my short speech at the opening of the competition, it is worth remembering to always stay “hungry”. Hungry to succeed, hungry to learn new things. Whether it’s taking part in a competition, joining a student organisation, learning a new foreign language or doing a short internship, it can make a big difference to their future success. And I hope that I will soon be able to meet graduates on the corporate side.  

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GEN.:2024.06.21. - 14:06:13