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Professional experience: How arts students get it for credit

20 August 2019
Our graduates are ranked Australia’s most employable for good reason*

As the workforce trends towards soft skills, we caught up with three Bachelor of Arts students who brought their communication and problem-solving abilities to bear while interning at Amnesty International, Macquarie Dictionary and the European Australian Business Council.

A recent report by Australia’s Department of Jobs and Small Business found 31.3 per cent of all job advertisements included ‘communication skills’ as a prerequisite – far beyond the next most desired skill.

Another report by consulting firm Deloitte forecasts “soft skill-intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030”.

With occupations continuously being outdated and updated through the advancement of automation and AI, workers who possess the sorts of soft skills developed through studying the humanities and social sciences – critical thinking, communication, problem solving – find themselves in greater demand.

While students in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences gain skills and capabilities that transfer easily across industries and occupations through their studies, our Internship for Credit program directly addresses another key factor when gauging employability: real-world experience.

Available as an elective 6-credit-point unit of study, the program offers students access to a wide variety of leading organisations including communications giant Telstra, AI developer Appen and the Department of Premier and Cabinet. It provides students with the opportunity to apply their problem solving and creative approaches to real-world tasks, gain industry connections and demystify workplace culture in the process.

Work experience in the real world

History major Pola Cohen's commitment to social justice led her to take an internship with Amnesty International. Over the course of a semester, Pola worked within the Campaigns/Impact team and directly contributed to the organisation’s advocacy efforts.

Interning at Amnesty was a hands-on learning experience. My main task was to design a workshop to educate big businesses on the new Modern Slavery Act.
Pola Cohen, History major

Pola says her time working with the human rights defender challenged her to put the research training she acquired at the University into practice.

“Amnesty was interested in ways of drawing the business community into discussions about human rights," Pola says. "It was a really interesting and challenging project because I had to think about information in a different way. When I was researching modern slavery, the point wasn't just to increase my own understanding, but to think about how I could effectively convey this information to a specific audience – and not through an academic essay."

A self-confessed lexicography buff, Linguistics major Adair Sheppard interned at Macquarie Dictionary earlier this year and, like Pola, was empowered to contribute meaningfully to the iconic dictionary’s core activities.

“I got to work directly with Macquarie Dictionary’s executive editor and its publisher," Adair says. "I received a lot of support and guidance, but mainly I worked pretty independently. I got experience researching and constructing dictionary entries from start to finish, including working on definitions, usage notes, pronunciations, spelling variations and graphics.”

Government and International Relations major, Salina Alvaro

Salina Alvaro, on placement at the European Australian Business Council.

Industry connected

During these valuable hands-on experiences, networking opportunities arose organically, providing students with professional connections that will prove useful after graduation.

On the first day of her internship at the European Australian Business Council (EABC), Government and International Relations major, Salina Alvaro found herself being introduced to the President of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, along with other international business leaders and government officials.

“My classes had not covered the role that corporate forums play in addressing Australia’s economic and public policy issues. Interning at the EABC gave me an intimate understanding of the ways dialogue between business leaders, political leaders, government officials, and diplomats is facilitated,” she says.

Every student should engage in opportunities outside of the classroom, it’s a completely different kind of learning experience.
Salina Alvaro, Government and International Relations major

Workplace ready: before graduation

Working alongside professionals and acclimatising to the workplace during their studies has given the students a firmer understanding of what employment feels like, bypassing the culture shock that can occur when a young graduate lands their first job.

Adair says her internship was akin to “peaking behind the curtain”, seeing how an organisation functions and what’s expected of its professionals.

“I got to see the workings of a real dictionary first-hand as well as learn how to conduct myself in a workplace," she explains. "As a student, being allowed to ask questions unabashedly is priceless.”

Pola’s Amnesty experience was the first time she had worked in a professional setting. She says the internship was especially valuable not only for deepening her knowledge of how advocacy operates, but for gaining familiarity with the workplace setting.

“The main benefit is learning to be comfortable in a work environment, so that post-uni life is a bit less of an unknown," she says. "I learnt how different teams and different individuals work together and what it's like to be in the office. The next time I enter an office environment, I'll feel even more confident and comfortable.”

Our Internship for Credit (FASS3000) unit of study can be untaken as an elective via all of our undergradute degrees.

Learn more about internships and placement opportunities within the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences here.

*QS Graduate Employability Rankings 2019.

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