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Teaching business undergraduates to be innovative: Can university internship programs help?

Wednesday 3 July: Conference day one, 3:00pm – 3:30pm parallel session



Room 9 – 3030-G23 MLT1



Dr Nadeera Ranabahu
University of Canterbury, New Zealand

Dr Shamika Almeida
University of Wollongong, Australia

Dr Elias Kyriazis
University of Wollongong, Australia



Australian government’s innovation agenda recommends preparing future-ready graduates adaptable to the changing nature of work. To address this, universities are attempting new initiatives, such as teaching new subjects, collaborating with external agencies, and establishing incubators which convert innovative ideas into businesses. We discuss one such university-led initiative of having an internship that is focused on enhancing innovative skills, piloted in one of the Australian universities.


The initiative/practice

The internship program, conducted by the Business Faculty, aims to translate a third-year innovation-focussed subject on product development into practice. Particularly, the purpose of the innovation stream (internship) was to provide interns with an opportunity to evaluate an organisation’s innovative processes and come up with recommendations to enhance existing innovation based best practices in the organisation. In the pilot internship, six students worked alongside three industry partners (an aged-care service provider and two manufacturing organisations) to develop innovative marketing solutions.


Method(s) of evaluative data collection and analysis

Autoethnographic techniques were used to evaluate the internship program. Student presentations, their reflective notes and feedback, and available data about the industry and their assessments about the internship/students were used as data sources in developing reflections. Then, these reflective notes were compared with the best practices in work-integrated learning and innovation literature. 


Evidence of effectiveness

The reflections emphasize that similar but complementary objectives of stakeholders— students, industry and university— contributed to the success. Feedback mechanisms ensured the alignment of these objectives with reality and expectations. Students with discovery skills and graduate skills were better equipped for innovation projects. The availability of industry supervisors and continuous feedback and engagement of internship coordinators with students contributed to the translation of students’ theoretical innovation based knowledge into practice. These conditions allowed students to create innovative marketing solutions for industry and learn about the application of innovative concepts within diverse industries. Hence this program, aligning with the best practices of work integrated learning, assisted students to incorporate innovation related knowledge and skills to a practical work setting and to develop relevant  job ready skills.

However, future internship programs require managing challenges, such as addressing the intellectual rights of the products developed, enhancing industry engagement on developing innovation projects, and incorporating student mentoring into academic’s workload calculations.


Presentation topic

Students – Future Graduates

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