Steve Bingham has come full circle. A member of the inaugural intake of Co-op scholars at UNSW in 1988, he spent one of his student work placements with IBM. Twenty-five years later Bingham, who graduated with a Bachelor of Information Technology, is now the Managing Partner of IBM Global Business Services and a member of the IBM Australia Board.
“IBM is one of the founding companies to have sponsored the UNSW program every year since its inception and there’s been a consistent pattern of UNSW students working at IBM – many of which go on to join our graduate program," Bingham says.
“IBM is committed to the ongoing support of these scholarships, and we believe this co-operative education model between industry and universities will ensure Australia has the local talent and skills required to meet the changing needs of our workforce.”
Bingham attributes the success of the program to two factors: the mix of theory and practice thanks to the industry placements, and the program’s selection criteria.
“IBM is a very diverse and innovative company. Having an interview process as part of the entry requirements means we are able to select students not just with good grades but with wider experience,” he says.
Bingham says during their six-month placement, students gain experience working on client projects alongside IBM’s consulting teams, “who are developing and delivering real solutions to help Australia’s leading organisations transform and prosper in the digital economy”.
“I’m very proud that I was part of the Co-op Program, and that 25 years later I am in a position to work with the education sector to ensure that students are well prepared for the delivery of digital technologies, in particular blending the skills of ICT, data science and service – all critical for Australia in the decade ahead.”
Since its inception in1988, the program has delivered 2712 high-achieving students to 330 companies including Coca Cola Amatil, Bluescope, Sydney Water and MSD, which have collectively invested more than $130 million in scholarships and provided invaluable work placements.
Students receive a scholarship of $16,750 per annum for each year of their degree – current offerings span across 24 areas in business, engineering, science and the built environment.
Along with industry experience, the Co-op Program incorporates leadership and professional development along with networking and mentoring opportunities.
“Industry has found the investment is giving them real workplace returns – more than 75 percent of graduates go on to be employed by their sponsor company,” says UNSW’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Students), Professor Wai Fong Chua.
“The UNSW Co-op Program has proved extremely successful in producing ‘work ready’ young professionals and has become a flagship program, exemplifying UNSW’s core belief in the many benefits of working closely with industry,” Professor Chua says.
Westpac is the program’s oldest and largest sponsor, investing some $6 million in young talent through 130-plus scholarships across a range of areas including information technology, accounting and business management, and finance and banking.
More than 40 Co-op Bachelor of Information Technology graduates are currently working across the bank’s business.
“This is quite an achievement for both the University and Westpac,” says the bank’s Chief Information Officer Clive Whincup.
“In many regards the Co-op program is more important now than it was 25 years ago when it was initiated, particularly from a technology perspective.
“We are very keen to strengthen all of the relationships we have with universities to encourage people to transition into the world of technology. It ticks all the boxes,” Whincup says.
Importantly, according to Westpac, the program gives industry the confidence they will have access to the best possible young talent.
“In this highly competitive environment, I’m a very strong supporter of students having a broad range of attributes, which we consider more important than pure academic achievement, “ says Whincup.
“Obviously they need to have strong skills and knowledge in their discipline, but increasingly the effectiveness of people in technology isn’t based on what you would necessarily think of as core technology skills.
“Communication skills, attitude, capability and energy come to mind; having the passion, focus and determination for the job.”
Media contact: Denise Knight, UNSW Media Office, 02 9385 3249 firstname.lastname@example.org