Global Internship at RMIT: Fostering career exploration, global skills, and alumni links

Case Studies

Institution:

RMIT University

Discipline:

Other

Model/s of WIL activity:

  • Industry/community based placement

Level the activity is delivered:

Through an individual unit/course of study

Global Internship at RMIT: Fostering career exploration, global skills, and alumni links

The Global Internship WIL subject builds global skills and career competencies.

The Global Internship is a final year WIL capstone course in the Bachelor of International Studies at RMIT. Students secure and undertake a thirty-five day internship of relevance to their career aspirations, which are explored in a preceding core subject called ‘Global Careers’. The internship enables students to put the global skills and knowledge developed in classroom subjects in their degree into concrete practice in workplaces. It enables students to build professional networks and referees, enables them to sample work in a sector of interest, providing an informed basis to make work and career choices.

Length of time the WIL activity has been/was in operation

Since 1999 – i.e. 23 years.

How does the WIL activity demonstrate good practice and/or innovation?

Since 1999, RMIT’s International Studies degree has valued the learning that occurs through praxis – where theory meets practice – and the importance of career exploration, especially in a degree like international studies where there is a breadth of career destinations. Career Development Learning is enabled by assignments in which students reflect on how their experiences and new skills have professional utility. During placement, students have a workplace supervisor and an academic staff mentor, to whom they can turn to discuss their experiences. The Global Internship advances student self-understanding by allowing them to discover kinds of work that suit them well and which they may wish to pursue, and the kinds of work they thought were of interest but did not suit. An example of this is ‘Chloe’, who interned in Japan in 2015 and realised it wasn’t for her. In a message to students, she wrote that on leaving school, “I wanted nothing more than to pursue a career in Japan [but] I didn’t end up becoming the fierce businesswoman in Japan that I had imagined, and that’s ok. In fact it’s great. I now work in one of the world’s biggest humanitarian aid organisations and it’s bloody amazing.” Finally, students lay the path for future students through ‘internship postcards’, which are an assessment item, and which have often been posted to social media (with due clearances), enabling current students to understand the breadth of opportunities available to them, thus demystifying the internship and career trajectories for students like themselves.

Who benefits from the WIL activity and how?

Beneficiaries include the students, host organisations, and alumni. Students benefit through career exploration, workplace experiences, and by building industry networks and references. Host organisations benefit through the engagement and the contributions of students who have insights into cross-cultural communication, socio-political issues, and workplace conduct. Alumni have benefitted by hosting students and maintaining their connection with their degree. This came to the fore in 2020, when many students’ internships were cancelled. A call out to alumni had an amazing response with internship opportunities being created, enabling many students to complete an internship (and therefore also graduate) under exceptional conditions.

How does the activity embed successful evaluation processes?

The Global Internship has ongoing evaluation through: i) a workplace supervisor’s report; ii) student assignments; iii) Staff Student Consultative Committee (SSCC); and iv) an Industry Advisory Committee (IAC). Supervisors of students provide a report in which they reflect on the student’s performance, as well as indicate their willingness to host future students. Supervisors overwhelmingly indicate enthusiasm to host future students. Students also reflect on their experience in assessments, and the SSCC provides a further forum for anonymous feedback. International Studies also has an IAC, which is informed of the components and performance of the International Studies degree including the internship.

What are the broader/longer term impacts for stakeholders?

Students in International Studies gain professional networks, references, and experiences to speak to in job interviews and cover letters. Many are offered employment at the organisation at which they interned, starting them on their career path before they have even graduated. Hosts have developed ongoing links with both students and RMIT University, providing a platform for collaborations. Alumni are able to maintain links with their degree and gain access to like-minded student interns to mutual benefit.

How is the WIL activity integrated into curricula? Include how it incorporates the preparation, implementation and reflection/debriefing phases of WIL.

The Global Internship is a final year capstone subject. It is preceded by the subject Global Careers, which is a core subject in second year and which explores careers and job/internship entry strategies from a research and practical perspective. Global Internship is implemented through a formalised three-way collaboration between the student, the host, and RMIT. Students debrief through engagement with their academic internship mentor and through assessments that prompt reflections on the experiences. Workplace supervisors reflect through a Supervisor’s Report which seeks an array of responses about the experience of working with the student as an intern.

Describe how the case study is informed by relevant theoretical or empirical literature, research and/or scholarship.

First, internships are frequently taken abroad or in local organisations with diverse colleagues or clients, giving students opportunities to cultivate the skills developed in their International Studies degree, which align closely with Bourn’s ‘Global Skills’ (2018). Second, in situ experiences test the ‘match quality’ between the student and the work, as described by authors including Malamud (2011). Students can thus make informed decisions as to the suitability – or not – of a sector for them. Third, because social science students can struggle with appreciating their employability skills (Harvey 2013), this internship surfaces those through the WIL experience and assessment design.

What are the plans for the WIL activity in the future?

Diverse aspects of the thirty-five day Global Internship are in constant evolution. For example, this year Masterclasses are being piloted. These Masterclasses explore internship relevant skills, such as cross-cultural workplace practice, and the concept of ‘internship crafting’. Like job crafting, internship crafting seeks to empower students to be proactive in shaping their internship experience, formulating their tasks and objectives, and engaging with supervisors to co-design an optimal WIL experience. Assessment design is also experimented with; assessments were recently redesigned as an array of professional communication documents that also foster thoughtful reflection on their experiences while their developing their students’ identity.

References

Bourn, D. (2018) Global Skills for 21st Century Professions. London: Palgrave.

Harvey, N. (2013) Employability of Bachelor of Arts graduates. Office for Learning and Teaching.

Malamud, O. (2011) Discovering One’s Talent: Learning from Academic Specialization. ILR Review, Vol 64 (2): 375-405.

Case Study Team Leader

Associate Professor Denise Jackson (ECU)

Associate Professor Julian Lee

RMIT University