Being an active member of the local web community, I’m often speaking to students at Port80 meetups, about the best way of getting work, and it isn’t an easy question to answer – and it seems that I’m not the only one – both Alex and Gary have recently blogged about apprenticeships, graduate programmes and internships.
The problem we seem to have at the moment, in Perth anyway, is the number of companies large enough to be able to take on interns and run graduate programmes is pretty small. I’ve seen this in the software industry – I remember vividly the last 6 weeks of final year, where every soon-to-be graduate was sending resumes to the big three software companies that ran graduate programmes – the numbers didn’t add up as there was many more applications, than positions. Of course, there is more than three software companies here – however many of them looked for people with some industry experience.
So the problem is a chicken and egg one – no experience means no job, and no job means no experience. I think the education institutions need to get a bit creative with how they are teaching. A perfect example of this is the Centre for Software Research at UWA run by my old honours supervisor and mentor, Dr. David Glance. I was lucky enough to be the first student to go through this system, and not only has it given me some great contacts, it gave me valuable experience. They take internal university projects, and get final year students and graduates to work on them. They also take on some external projects, the proceeds of which pay for the running of the centre – and the student wages. This is a win-win on so many levels.
- The students get practical experience working with a Project Manager, a client and deadlines. And they get paid to do it.
- The lecturers, who acts as the Project Manager gets to keep their fingers on the pulse of what is happening in the real world – which is invaluable in such a fast moving industry.
- The University can implement and experiment with adding systems to improve their work flow for little practical cost.
Of course these programs aren’t a silver bullet, and take resources, but in my opinion they a big step forward from handing someone a certificate and then throwing them in the deep end of the real world.