Co-operation between academic institutions and employers needs to be more comprehensive to ensure students can combine theoretical studies with work experience, a senior Hong Kong academic claims. Businesses in the SAR have taken note of co-operative education. However, observers say industry should be aware that the responsibility for encouraging work experience did not rest solely with academic institutions. Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) vice-president Alexander Tzang Hing-chung said co-operative education should be fostered so that employers and students benefited. Co-operative education is a strategy of applied learning which allows students to integrate academic knowledge and practical work experience related to their field of study. Actual working experience is expected to give students a practical understanding of their future careers. 'Students can understand the requirements of a real working environment and employers will get a more productive workforce in return.' Mr Tzang said co-operative education was crucial in Hong Kong's ever-changing business environment. 'Training should not remain static. It should respond to a changing environment. If students are being equipped with the skills demanded to understand the real working environment, it is good for enhancing their productivity at work,' he said. 'It is important to note that, in producing practical-value graduates, the responsibility does not only lie with universities or other academic institutions. 'Employers and the Government should both reflect on how to work with institutions to produce high-calibre employees.' Mr Tzang's comments came as the PolyU prepares to host the Asia Pacific Co-operative Education Conference this month in collaboration with the China Association for Co-operative Education. The conference, from August 24-28, will focus on 'The Industry and Academic Symbiosis - A Global Partnership'. It will feature a three-day programme in Hong Kong and a day and a half excursion to Guangzhou organised by South China University of Technology. PolyU regularly provides internships for first and second-year students to put their theoretical knowledge into daily operation during the summer holidays and the response has been positive. In addition to meeting Hong Kong's manpower requirements, it makes contributions towards the SAR's success by providing the public and private sectors with its expanding range of consultancy, professional training and applied research services. According to Mr Tzang, through these activities, the PolyU has maintained a strong partnership with the business and industrial sectors and its graduates are recognised by industry as having the highest practical value. 'Co-operative education could help employers learn about the tools and methods to recruit and develop future employees and meet potential partners for collaboration. It also benefits students to meet the ever-changing needs and requirements of business and industry,' he said. This will be the second time the PolyU has hosted the biennial conference.