Giving Graduates a HeadstartMarch 20, 2017
Employers typically require some degree of work experience from their graduate job applicants, which can be a Catch 22 as in many cases students tend to only get industry exposure after graduating from university. But at Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus, students get a first-hand feel of their chosen career while they study.
At the Australian university branch campus in Kuching, final year undergraduate students take up capstone units where they are assigned a partner from the industry to complete a “Capstone project”. This unit provides them with a professionally focused learning experience and allows them to put learnt theory into practice so that they are able to tackle real problems faced by industry with a novel and innovative approach.
According to Dr Ong LiapTeck from the Faculty of Business and Design, the objectives of the Capstone project are twofold. “On one hand it provides students with the opportunity to work with industry, making use of the skills, knowledge and training they have acquired during the course of their studies. On the other, it allows the industry to assess the standard of the university’s graduates,” says the International Business lecturer.
“Through the achievement of these objectives, both the students and the organisations involved benefit as the project provides them with industry links and channel of communication, dialogue and more importantly cooperation and collaboration between the industry and the students.”
As the convenor for the Capstone project for business students, Ong would initially get in touch with industry partners before the start of the semester and identify suitable projects. During the implementation stage, it is not uncommon for an organisation’s senior management team to visit the faculty and have direct dialogue with the cohorts of students, who normally work in teams of five or six each. The student teams act as consultants and within a span of 12 weeks they would present their findings and recommendations to the industry partner, usually in a formal manner.
In some instances they are required to present their proposals in the boardrooms of organisations which in the past have included Astro MEASAT Broadcast Network Systems Sdn Bhd, Nestle Malaysia Sdn Bhd, Kuching City North Council, KTS Holdings Sdn Bhd, Yung Kong Groups of Companies, Sarawak Convention Bureau, TEKUN Nasional and Yayasan Sarawak.
“The grading of the students’ presentation and final reports are done by the industry partner and not by the lecturers. And, although a lecturer is assigned to each student cohort, the output is largely their own,” says Ong, adding that the students come up with various proposals in order to address the real and complex issues encountered by the organisation.
“Some have developed programmes which contain important financial information that could actually be used by entrepreneurs to monitor their accounts, while others have designed an online application that entrepreneurs could use to promote their menus, allow customers to order and make payment online.”
Others include the rebranding of institutions, taking into account the perspectives of Generation Y and Z, marketing strategies for technological firms and the introduction of new products to emerging markets.
“So far, the feedback from our industry partners has not only been positive but they have also expressed admiration for the high quality of work the students have been able to put into their proposals,” says Ong, who has extensive leadership and management experience in industry prior to joining Swinburne Sarawak.
He says it is through such interactions that the students and industry partners benefit mutually. In fact, besides benefiting from the student ideas, some have made use of the collaborative opportunity to recruit promising students as members of their staff.
Through the capstone project, students also develop the range of skills and attitudes required of professionals in the workplace, and become self-directed learners, independently seeking resources, peer and professional assistance as needed.
These experiences not only prepare students for their future careers and for successful employment after graduation, but also represent a wonderful resource for industry and organisations.
“The Capstone units would not be possible without the active participation and support of our industry partners. The university is grateful for their support and look forward to continually working closely with them for the benefit of the students as well as the industry,” says Ong, adding that his faculty will be keen to work with potential industry partners.
StudentHQ at Swinburne University
Based on the last graduate tracer study conducted by the university’s career office, graduates reported up to a 100% employment rate* for numerous business and engineering courses whilst the overall employment rate came in at a high 93%. The practical hands-on focus in their learning has, among others, certainly contributed to their impressive employability rate.
Swinburne Sarawak is now receiving applications from students all over Malaysia for the March foundation intake. The March foundation programme is the fastest way for students to start their degree programme in 2018 in the fields of engineering, business, computing, design and science. Students may apply online at www.swinburne.edu.my For more information, please call 082-415 353 , email [email protected] or chat with us during office hours on their website and Facebook.