by MICHELLE PICARD and SHANNON JOHNSTON
Business, government and universities all say they want a diverse workplace that attracts linguistically and culturally diverse staff, people with disabilities and those from low socio-economic backgrounds. And diversity is actually good for business and productivity, but many businesses struggle to attract and retain a diverse workforce.
A powerful way to increase the diversity of the workforce, could be from the outside in. That is, to infuse diversity through university student work-integrated learning (WIL) placements. Simple, right?
But students from low-socio economic backgrounds, culturally and linguistically diverse students, and students with a disability are often last in the queue for internships. Even though, ironically, they benefit the most from these opportunities.
So, what is stopping students engaging in effective internships? Individual barriers exist, like the financial costs of internships and balancing work and carer responsibilities. Even online internships can be problematic for equity students with barriers like interruptions, lack of privacy and digital inequity. Academic staff and businesses can also create barriers such as GPA requirements or competitive application processes that disadvantage these cohorts.
We decided to address these barriers head-on when designing Murdoch Business School’s new Bachelor of Commerce (murdoch.edu.au). All students will now undertake WIL through a compulsory Professional Business Practice co-major. To ensure this is a positive experience with maximum learning gain, students’ confidence and readiness for WIL placements are scaffolded through three focuses: class activity developing self-management and career planning capabilities; simulation, visits and mentoring opportunities with business professionals; and industry consultancy projects and internships. We source projects and internships for students, but also allow students to self-source.
By fully preparing students for internships, and allowing choice of timing and opportunity, we hope to provide equity in WIL for business students and, in a small way, contribute to a more diverse workforce.
Associate Professor Michelle Picard, Dean Learning and Teaching, College of Arts, Business, Law and Social Sciences, Murdoch University [email protected] (She is moving to Flinders U to be PVC Learning & Teaching Innovation)
Dr Shannon Johnston, Head of Professional Learning, Murdoch University [email protected]
Murdoch University is a member of CAULLT (Council of Australasian University Leaders in Learning and Teaching)