Imagining a better future for Victorian tech students with SummerTech Live

Over the summer, 31 innovative tertiary students across Victoria were given the opportunity to connect with 18 different Victorian SME’s in a Victorian Government pilot program called SummerTech Live. Over a period of eight to twelve weeks, students worked on real-life projects, giving them the chance to use their newly developed higher education skills while being mentored by Victorian businesses.

On April 13, 2017, students from five universities and one TAFE in Victoria were brought together at leading tech company REA, to celebrate and share their achievements and learnings. The theme of the showcase was ‘imagination’ with REA Group’s Chief Inventor, Mr Nigel Dalton leading the charge together with Hon Philip Dalidakis MP, Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade, Victorian State Government.

Students in the eight to twelve-week program were given authentic business challenges to develop job-ready skills. Over 18 projects spanned a variety of industries and technologies, including:

  • Helping create life changing in-home rehabilitation technology
  • Developing user-friendly rechargeable battery packs
  • Creating an app that helps people find their favourite food any time of the day.  

The two-year pilot program promoted inclusion with a mix of local and international students. The program was designed to demonstrate the value of gender and cultural diversity to innovation and problem-solving.

“Melbourne’s strengths are our diversity and collaborations and our talent for digital innovations. We don’t need to be ‘someone else 2.0’,” said Dalidakis, emphasising his vision to position Victoria as the number one destination for technology in the Asia Pacific region.

“We are Melbourne, and we should be proud of it”.

Savills Research recently ranked Melbourne as Australia’s top technology city and 14th globally.

Student perspective

Students participating in the program were able to access the opportunity to play in the real world, to learn from industry specialists and to be allowed to make mistakes along the way. Able to feel supported and proud of the projects they worked on and the outcomes they achieved, those participating were given beneficial, advantageous insights.

Swinburne University of Technology student Elizabeth Bonny said the opportunity was “…remarkable for someone at uni who is looking to get more real world experience”. During the program, she was given the opportunity to work as a business analyst for the Australian Furniture Association and beamed when talking about the experience.

“We had a great mentor who helped us learn a lot more than you would sitting in a lecture with 200 other students, it was all one-on-one learning.”

Other students like Jack Kuan from the University of Melbourne worked more independently while building a restaurant app at PongoLabs.

“When you create a product like this, it’s 50/50,” said Kuan. “You need to learn independently, but of course, I got help. It was a unique experience as I actually got to solve a real world problem.”

A common theme from the students’ presentations was the challenging leap from vocational learning to practical application in the workforce. The shift from learning broad topics, to having to apply specialised knowledge, posed a realistic and common challenge for many of them. The key difference with this program, as opposed to standard graduate employment, is the support and mentorship provided during this pivotal transition. The program aims to build confidence in the next generation in the Victorian workforce and to bridge the gap between studying and working.

Business partner perspective

The 21 business partners involved were able to utilise these high-level digital technology students to work on innovative business solutions at an affordable cost. The overall feeling from mentors within SMEs, as well as students involved in the program, was that it was a win-win for all.

Layer Security’s Rick Harvey, who eagerly participated in the program as a mentor, went on to explain that the students were keen to help develop opportunities within his company that he normally wouldn’t have the time nor resources to attend to.

“When you’re running a business, you’re generally head down trying to get through daily life,” he said.

Shourov Bhattacharya from PongoLabs said the program went above and beyond, with student Jack exceeding their expectations. They now want to hire him as a result. Bhattacharya’s recommendation is to expand the program from 31 students to 3,000 students, and more importantly, to match the right student to the right business.

Dalidakis concluded by thanking the students, acknowledging their contributions towards paving a path for Victorian businesses and their futures.

Pilots such as these support the growth and development of our next generation of Victorian entrepreneurs and innovators in the all-important tech sector. Round two of the program’s pilot is set for next year; students, as well as businesses, are encouraged to apply now.

For more information about Round Two, please contact:     

Kelly Hutchinson at kelly.hutchinson@ecodev.vic.gov.au

Helen Paraskevopoulos at helen.paraskevopoulos@ecodev.vic.gov.au