Supporting students through Work in Learning

Over the years, we’ve tried to support future generations of students wherever we can: through the scholarship we used to run, by helping in hackathons, or through our courses and other talks. This year we have started a more hands-on approach, partnering with Universities for their Work In Learning programs.

I’m generally not a fan of unpaid internships, as it smacks a bit of exploitation. However, the Work In Learning program is actually part of the coursework for a student, and it has very clear guidelines about how it should run and what the student should provide. I was reluctant, but we decided to trial our participation in this through programs delivered through Edith Cowan University and the University of Western Australia.

We’ve had three students working with us on this program, Yenty and Kaelyn from Edith Cowan University, and Kasun from the University of Western Australia. All three of these students bring very different skillsets to us from their studies.

Yenty has been working with us on Machine Learning (ML) and business opportunities. Yenty has developed a report for us about this topic and has been doing some reviews and informing our staff of some new things around the ML sphere. She’s uncovered some interesting opportunities and also some latent relevant skills in our staff that we had forgotten about!

Meanwhile, Kaelyn has been talking to us about marketing strategies. Her interest was in this area, so she developed a draft marketing plan that gives us a different perspective around how we are seen – especially valuable in the marketing area – and proposed a bunch of things to do about it.

Kasun has just started with us, and he is working on setting up some actual ML processes using the Amazon Web Services stack. As we’re a partner with AWS, we’ve got great access to their team, and they have been supporting Kasun (and us) in this venture to trial out a few ideas and research concepts that have been bubbling away for a while.

I'm always looking for ways to support my old alma mater!

I’m always looking for ways to support my old alma mater!

The Work In Learning program is a limited investment from the student – 100 hours of time, strictly controlled through timesheets – and with a clear plan up-front and a clear output at the end, so it’s been quite easy to stay involved and engaged with the students. Of course, the quality of the outcome is very much dependent on the quality of the student!

The program delivers benefits in two ways that I can see:

  • for the business, it gives you a fresh pair of eyes to look at a particular problem or issue, and this can be seen as an ongoing extended way to actually get to know potential new staff for the business, and
  • for the student, it gives them a taste of what it’ll be like in the real world after the graduate, and just like for the business, it’s a way for them to get to know a future employer.

We’re looking at what value the Work In Learning program delivered to us as a business at the moment, and will be working with the University coordinators in due course to give them our feedback on how the program could be reviewed and improved before we look at participating again in 2020. If you want to know more about how it went, feel free to drop me a line at piers.higgs@gaiaresources.com.au or start a conversation with us on FacebookTwitter or LinkedIn.

In the meantime, we wish the three of our students – Kaelyn, Kasun and Yenty – the best of luck in the future and thank them for their time and insights!

Piers

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