“New research by CSIRO’s Data61, the data and digital specialist arm of Australia’s national science agency, has confirmed what business has known for a long time: there is nothing better for graduate employability than internships and other on-the-job work-related training,” Ai Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox, said today.
The research report, High Education and Employment in Australia: The Impact of Internship,provides evidence that work components in university degrees result in graduates who are more valuable to employers. Drawing on its expertise as Australia’s leading job and internship matching platform for students, researchers from CSIRO Data61’s Ribit.net used advanced data comparison techniques to confirm earlier pieces of research indicating a link between work exposure by students and their value to employers as graduates.
“Employers continue to report that the human-centric transferable or soft skills of communication, problem solving, teamwork, critical thinking and creativity are becoming increasingly important in all roles. These skills are vital in globally connected, virtual and physical, autonomous workplaces, and are skills that artificial intelligence cannot replicate,” Mr Willox said.
“Interestingly, earlier research found that including a focus on employability skills inside conventionally taught curriculum did not improve labour market outcomes of graduates.
“Whereas in contrast, building work-related experiences at worksites into courses has been shown to improve the work readiness of graduates, thereby bringing about earlier productivity benefits for employers. Employability-based training and experience and/or employer involvement in courses were found to have a positive impact on graduate job prospects.
“This work integrated learning is acknowledged as a crucially important path for stakeholders to collaborate to improve graduate employability.
“The connections made through these student-industry work arrangements have mutual benefits. They also establish opportunities for important input by industry around what is being studied, as well as research and development initiatives.
“Universities increasingly provide flexibility in degree work components. As well as longer placements, students and companies can assist each other via micro-internships, projects, online consultancies, and organised student events that apply fresh ideas and knowledge to a company’s identified problem,” Mr Willox said.
“The data shows the more we can do as a nation to help put young people into job opportunities while they study, the more likely they are to succeed and help build our economy,” said Ribit’s Director, Liz Jakubowski.
 For example: Cranmer, S., Enhancing graduate employability: best intentions and mixed outcomes, Studies in higher education, 2006 and Smith, C., Ferns, S., Russell, L. & Cretchley, P., The impact of work integrated learning on student work-readiness, Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching, 2014.