Reimagining work experience
Employers place great value on relevant work experience when hiring graduates. But three in four young people aren’t confident they have the practical skills to gain full time work. To bridge this gap and gain business specific skills, students often turn to internships. This can introduce them to their chosen industry, and allow them to apply theoretical knowledge in practice and build a professional network.
Yet only 14% of university students undertook an internship in 2017, according to Universities Australia.
Internships can be difficult to secure, especially for certain types of students. International students, for example, lack a strong local network, and regional students have less access to internship opportunities compared to students living in major cities. Internships provide that critical employability link for the transition of students to the workforce.
So what can education institutions do to support all students in accessing work experience before they graduate?
The Navitas Professional approach
At Navitas, we are passionate about discovering new ways to provide students with professional experiences that enhance employment and career prospects. Our career development arm, Navitas Professional, helps tertiary students, graduates and young professionals to build skills relevant to their field of study through work integrated learning, placements, mentoring and training. We also deliver the Professional Year Program (PYP) to international accounting, IT and engineering graduates and are the only provider in Australia to offer the PYP in all three career disciplines in every state and territory across Australia. The PYP aims to build industry-specific and employability skills through a combination of coursework and internships.
Navitas Professional has identified virtual internships as the next evolution of work placements, offering the opportunity for more students to gain greater access to a larger pool of employers.
What are virtual internships?
Virtual internships differ from traditional physical or remote internships in that they don’t involve live tasks or projects. They are online experiences simulating work situations that students and graduates undertake with industry-leading organisations.
Real graduate-level tasks are sourced and developed in direct consultation with industry and inserted into an online environment that students can access anytime and anywhere. Just like in a ‘real’ placement, the intern can experience an induction process with a welcoming supervisor who provides them with a company overview and explains their role. The only difference is that this is done via a pre-recorded video.
A low-risk environment for students to gain business skills
The simulated platform is a low-risk environment for students to test their skills and apply their theoretical knowledge for the first time in their chosen study area. Students can develop practical skills without the pressure of failure and complete work at their own pace from anywhere there is an internet connection. Students then receive a certificate to add to their portfolio or resume – or to post on LinkedIn.
Providing work experience through a simulated environment has other benefits. Regardless of, previous experience, the stage the individual is at in their learning journey or their previous workplace experience, a virtual internship can accommodate the learning needs of a vast range of learners.
Building collaborative solutions
Navitas Professional has developed a virtual internship program in partnership with EdTech company, InsideSherpa.
This open source platform developed by InsideSherpa (seen in the video above) connects students with company-endorsed virtual internships, with an impressive client list including KPMG, Citibank and Commonwealth Bank. It is the first scalable internship platform that enables students to experience what it is like to work at companies that interest them.
In November 2018, InsideSherpa and Navitas teamed up to launch our first virtual internship, The Navitas Global Corporate Virtual Internship which offers graduates the opportunity to apply their knowledge to graduate-level work tasks and receive feedback and personalised assessment of their professional strengths.
Virtual internships can be tailored to any level of study and mapped to key learning outcomes within a degree.
The StudyPerth Employability Project
Recently, Navitas Professional was one of four education providers engaged by StudyPerth – an organisation charged with building the profile of international education in Western Australia – to deliver employability skills training for international students. The StudyPerth Employability Project is a portfolio of initiatives that help students to build confidence and capability, as well as connections. It aims to identify and address students’ employability requirements across their entire student lifecycle, including beyond graduation.
Navitas Professional is developing four virtual internships in the popular study areas of business, STEM, health and ‘soft skills’ (such as teamwork and communication). From February 2020, all international students commencing their studies in Perth will be able to enrol in a virtual internship program and experience ‘working’ in their chosen industry sector or profession.
While virtual internships can’t replicate all of the benefits of a traditional internship, they can supplement traditional internships as an inclusive and more accessible solution. And they have the potential to provide all students and graduates with equal access to professional skills development.
 Report from the Foundation for Young Australians shows 76% of young people do not believe they possess the relevant vocational and practical work experience to gain full-time work.