ECU and IBM partner to bridge industry-ready skills gap

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Media Release by Edith Cowan University

Global technology giant IBM and Edith Cowan University (ECU) have collaborated to deliver an industry and education internship model, one that places student talent at the heart of the industry and creates real job opportunities for local ECU students.

ECU and IBM are creating opportunities for students to ‘Earn As They Learn’ by providing applied industry experience with IBM and their clients. The internship program, which officially launched in August, focusses on current and emerging high demand skill areas key to WA’s digital economy, including user experience designers, software engineers, data scientists, mobile application developers and project managers.

Edith Cowan University Vice-Chancellor Professor Steve Chapman said, “This transformational model represents the next generation of industry-embedded learning and is proving to be exactly what the market and students are screaming out for.”

“When we talk of the jobs of the future, the future of education and student readiness – this is a breakthrough model that dramatically increases employability. This is the territory we want to be in, to take on the skills-gap challenging the industry, simultaneously offering students an income stream aligned to their studies and future careers,” added Professor Chapman.

“In WA’s innovation context, there’s an increasing demand for graduates with a unique combination of skills in creativity, technology and business. This model aims to address this skills demand while also redefining how students consider their study journey.”

The concept has been successfully piloted in WA by IBM and ECU across two intake periods involving more than 50 students since August 2021. The program contributed to further employment opportunities for a number of participating students, creating career pathways and helping to grow workforce opportunities for students in WA.

Bridging the gap

IBM Design Director, Vivien Hegedus said, “Together IBM and Edith Cowan University are developing industry-ready graduates, who not only have strong discipline knowledge, but also have the employability skills and industry insights necessary to gain a competitive advantage in the global job market.”

“Today’s digital transformation across industries is creating jobs that require new skills and innovative thinking. Through such industry-academic collaboration, we can help to advance relevant skills development among students in Western Australia to better prepare them for tomorrow’s jobs.”

“This internship program will allow students to acquire some of the most in demand business and technical skills, helping to fast-track their post study employment opportunities,” she added.

A key feature of the program is its scalability, with the potential for this model to help guide future opportunities for industry and higher education collaboration. The program has great potential across a breadth of cross-disciplinary areas and can be designed to meet the demands of an increasingly complex industry ecosystem.

Recent ECU graduate and participant of the pilot internship program, Ms Aryana Eraman said, “Having real life clients was one of the most valuable educational aspects of her university experience.”

Vice-Chancellor Professor Steve Chapman added, “The collaboration with IBM was not just about more tech jobs in cities, but building capacity in the region, with a presence also in the South West of Western Australia, home to the ECU South West campus.”

Another impressive feature of the collaboration is its potential to boost diversity within the IT industry, focusing on attracting more female, Indigenous, LGBTQI+ and neurodiverse graduates.

“What we are achieving here really exemplifies what cross portfolio collaboration is all about – creating solutions for industry challenges while giving our students real-world immersive learnings and career opportunities,” said Professor Chapman.

Supporting students, supporting industry

The Water Corporation have welcomed a number of ECU students through the partnership program, and said it supported the delivery of key initiatives across HR, project delivery and process automation.

Representatives from ATCO also commended the program, describing it as exceedingly commendable and in line with ATCO’s overarching vision to be ‘delivering inspired solutions for a better world’ and to support local communities.

Western Power’s Head of Information and Communication Technology, Tracy Deveugle-Frink said the students allowed assisted with substantial digital programs, “allowing us to deliver quality outcomes, while also giving the students a unique opportunity to experience working in a dynamic and safe environment,” she said.

“The ECU and IBM partnership has allowed Western Power to fully embrace the building of our next generation of ICT professionals,” said Western Power’s ICT Project Delivery Manager, Matt Gaunt.

“The onboarding of these employees has allowed Western Power to tap into new and innovative ways of thinking and delivering technology, while supporting pending graduates with effective work experience and an understanding of how to make a difference within a corporate environment.”


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