Talent Solutions deliver The University of Auckland Virtual Internship: A Case Study

The University of Auckland Virtual Internship Programme was launched at a critical time for many Auckland businesses affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Talent Solutions was privileged to deliver the internship, which provided 100 international students with an insider seat on the future of Aotearoa’s corporate world.

Executive Summary

This Programme offered a work-integrated learning initiative that gave International students (both on-shore and off-shore) the opportunity to work on real business challenges with the support of interactive learning content and dedicated mentor feedback.

The project was delivered on behalf of the University of Auckland by Talent Solutions, specialist early talent consultants, in partnership with Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) over the inter-semester break in July 2020.

Programme Design

The programme design was structured according to Kolb’s theory of Experiential Learning which included a series of reflection activities. By embedding this pedagogical approach into the learning design, this program provided an integrated learning experience for participants that not only addressed essential 21st Century skills but also facilitated reflective and feedback-informed practice.

Programme Structure

100 University of Auckland International students were selected from a range of disciplines, and split into 20 teams of 5 students. Teams included 22 on-shore and 78 off-shore students.

Organisations were assigned between 1 and 4 teams of 5 students per team. With the support of Talent Solutions, each client developed at least one case study project brief for their teams to work on during the project. These case studies ranged from marketing plans, to cost/benefit analyses, to live construction redevelopment projects, and many more.

Over the course of the internship, students worked with both a ‘mentor’ and a ‘client’ from the organisation as they worked towards producing a project report and presentation in response to the client brief. Students, mentors and clients received ongoing training and support to develop personally and professionally, collaborating virtually using a bespoke platform.

Employers

Nine Auckland based organisations representing a cross-section of sizes and industries were selected and invited to take part in the project by Talent Solutions. 

Employers involved in the project were:

  • Auckland Transport
  • Auckland Tourism, Events, and Economic Development
  • Grant Thornton
  • KPMG
  • Deloitte
  • Auckland Sea Kayaks
  • Devonport Chocolate Factory
  • Anxiety New Zealand Trust
  • WSP
Evaluation

The success of the pilot was evaluated across a number of key measures.  These included that:

  • Students identified key skill development and growth as a result of participating in the programme.
  •  Mentors recognized value for their organisation and would recommend future participation of their colleagues.
  • Clients recognized value for their organisation and would recommend the programme to others.
Feedback

Feedback was gathered from Clients, Mentors and Students via surveys and in-person post-programme interviews. 

Mentor and Client Feedback

“It was an excellent opportunity for mentors to better understand the challenges faced by International students in addressing real NZ based business challenges.  Also, a great opportunity to practice good mentoring practices, how to give feedback and how to coach and support learning.” – Caroline, Devonport Chocolate Factory (Client)

100% of mentors and clients stated that they would recommend a colleague to participate in the Auckland Virtual Internship Project in the future. Common reasons for this included that the project provided:

  • A fantastic opportunity to give back to students
  • A great development opportunity for developing Managers to practice their mentoring skills in the Mentor role
  • An opportunity for the organisation to interact with students from diverse backgrounds who bring different perspectives to current problems

95% of mentors and clients found that the online platform was effective and easy to use.

“It was a fun experience and learning opportunity, and the platform is very user friendly. Because the internships were virtual, and no in-person meetings were required, it reduced the overall time commitment, which was a big help with busy schedules.”

Student Feedback

100% of students found the virtual internship ‘Extremely valuable’. For 98% of students, participation in the programme, with the assistance of a mentor, improved their overall performance. 

“I’ve never had the chance to work on anything like this through my studies – to work on something real was amazing.” – Nithyasu Sundararajan, India

“This internship is very good to develop employability skills. COVID-19 has made it so hard for us students to find a summer internship, so this short virtual internship could become a key competitive advantage.” – Rithirot Sokhom, Cambodia

“You get to meet like-minded individuals who are determined and passionate about their futures just like you, you get to develop your professional network and finally, you get upskill yourself whilst learning new things at the same time.” – Devin Fernando, Sri Lanka