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Almost half a million students at Australia’s universities are getting real-world experience to help kick-start their careers through a work placement, internship or fieldwork as part of their degree.

The nation’s first comprehensive snapshot of work integrated learning found 451,263 students took part in industry-led projects, fieldwork, practical simulations, and work placements in 2017.

Universities Australia Chair Professor Margaret Gardner said Australian universities offer an impressive array of experiences that give graduates a competitive edge in the labour market.

“Our students really want practical experience in workplaces – and universities are creating exciting opportunities to benefit students, local industry and the wider community,” she said.

“This includes chances for students to work on industry projects, advise community groups, treat healthcare patients under supervision, teach, and try their hand at consulting work.”

The new figures are revealed in Universities Australia’s new publication, Career Ready Graduates (PDF 34.2MB), to be launched today by Professor Gardner in an address to the National Press Club.

The data collection was enabled by a grant from the Australian Government’s Enabling Growth and Innovation fund administered by the Department of Education and Training.

Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said the report was a major piece of work by UA which highlights the front-footed approach of our universities to career preparation.

“This is the first time we have had comprehensive data about the scale of these work opportunities — and it shows the very strong commitment of Australia’s universities to graduate employability.”

“Some of the experiences on offer make you wish you were a student again – US Congressional internships, treating patients in Solomon Islands, working on town planning in Australia’s tropical north, or playing in a professional symphony orchestra.”

New figures from JWS Research, commissioned by UA, also show student workplace experience is valued highly by the Australian public.

Nine in ten Australians – 91 per cent – say work placements with businesses or community groups are important to prepare students to get a job after they graduate.

Key statistics from UA’s Career Ready Graduates report include:
  • In 2017, 451,263 university students took part in 555,403 workplace experiences;
  • They include 357,806 Australian students, 93,126 international students, 5,486 Indigenous students and 67,116 students from regional and remote Australia;
  • work placements are the most common workplace experiences (43 per cent);
  • universities also offered students the chance to do industry projects (23 per cent), fieldwork (10 per cent) and industry simulations (13 per cent); and
  • students aged 20 to 29 were most engaged in work integrated learning activities.

The publication also includes case studies from each of Australia’s 39 universities, including:

  • Griffith University’s comprehensive program of workplace opportunities during the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth games;
  • Monash Industry Team Initiative (MITI) — it brings together multidisciplinary teams of students to work on everything from autonomous helicopters that fight bushfires to smart buildings that maximise energy use;
  • Federation University’s IBM internship — IT students receive a $35,000 scholarship to work alongside IBM staff on campus in the final two years of their degree;
  • ANU’s Student Managed Fund — it gives students the experience of managing a real endowment fund with the proceeds going to equity scholarships; and
  • Charles Sturt University’s world-leading engineering degree — it treats students as engineers from day one with four real-world projects instead of classes.

Universities Australia Media Contacts

Misha Schubert
02 6285 8133
Mobile: 0421 612 351

Bella Counihan
Ph: 02 6285 8123
Mobile: 0419 212 219 
James Giggacher
Ph: 02 6285 8118
Mobile: 0413 665 143

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