Melbourne-based Swinburne University of Technology has announced it will provide each and every single one of its students with some form of work experience from this year onwards.
The Victorian university known for its strengths in science, technology and design announced that every undergraduate student would receive ‘work-integrated learning’ and real industry experience from 2021.
“From now on, paid placements, internships or industry-linked projects will be a core component of all undergraduate courses,” Swinburne said in a statement.
“Students will be connected with Swinburne’s more than 1,100 industry, government and community partners to gain real work experience that will help them build in-demand skills and prepare them for the workforce.”
Swinburne Vice-Chancellor Professor Pascale Quester said the change was to keep up with the future of work which is “constantly evolving” and demanding different capabilities.
“Workplaces are looking for innovative solutions to the problems they’re experiencing, as well as the talent required for a future defined by technology.”
The hope is that Swinburne students will be the “practical, adaptive and specialised professionals that industr[ies] needs,” he added.
“Our graduates will be highly employable and ready to contribute to social and economic impact as global citizens.”
Jeff Connolly, chairman and CEO of Siemens Australia, a major graduate partner of Swinburne, said organisations needed to be involved with educators to ensure skill gaps were addressed.
“The days of industry and business taking [the] finished product from tertiary educators are gone,” Connolly said.
“Businesses have an obligation to participate during the education process of post-secondary students if they want outcomes that reflect the changing skills and needs required to be competitive,” he added.
“Put simply, strong links between industry and key educators helps ensure that curriculum is more relevant to industry needs and that students are more job-ready when they graduate.”
A report put together by the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work showed that all stakeholders in Australia’s university system could stand to collaborate more closely.
“Working together, they can construct a system that does a better job of tailoring university offerings to the broad needs of the economy and society (not just specific training requirements of employers), and assist graduates to attain meaningful, decent employment which makes full use of their skills and dedication,” said report author and Centre for Future Work director Jim Stanford.
“A more deliberate, proactive approach is needed to ensure that the future of work can be a great one for Australian university graduates.”
Aussie graduates face an uncertain future
The graduating class of 2020 faced a jobs market that was tougher than usual.
The COVID-19 pandemic squashed any hopes of a gap year abroad or chances at working overseas. Domestically, the employment market tightened as thousands of businesses folded, turned to the JobKeeper wage subsidy or let staff go.
Young people’s jobs were more impacted by COVID-19, who tend to be more highly represented in industries such as hospitality, tourism and entertainment.
“If we do not address youth unemployment very quickly, we will be facing long-term unemployment amongst young people,” University of Western Australia Centre for Social Impact Paul Flatau told SBS News.
“That will have a long-term devastating impact on young people and the economy.”
A 2017 survey by GradAustralia revealed that 70 per cent of 14,000 respondents felt it was more important for them to feel fulfilled than to earn a lot of money, and more than 70 per cent expect to spend less than five years with their first employer.