Liberty IT interview with Michael Blumenstein – UTS’ IDEA Programme

Link to video on the Liberty ITCG YouTube channel:

John Dimitropoulos:

The initiative that UTS has at the moment, it is called IDEA. What triggered the concept and what’s that all about? Can you talk to us a little bit about the concept please?

Michael Blumenstein:

Yeah, very happy to elaborate on IDEA, which is actually a short for Industry Degree Academy. So essentially it’s a sort of a cadetship type program at UTS and the main driver for creating it, which basically it started actually this year, was because industry was coming to us and saying look we don’t have enough people that are graduating from… where’s the pipeline, we need more. And so one of the ideas that came up in discussion with our industry advisory board was well what about if we got people like students actually enrolled in a degree that could also be employed at the same time in the industry sector and that’s where the whole concept was born.

It sort of reminds us a little bit of the past around sandwich type degrees, which you’re probably familiar with, but it’s very much driven around the fact that the industry is saying a student can be effective within the industry from the very beginning, which is quite an interesting model.

I mean there is some debate around that, some industry in the tech sector will say well what kind of skills will they have when they come in first year into employment in our company. But it’s not about the students going to serve coffee or just doing menial tasks, it’s actually about them connecting with the industry values and the whole essence of what the industry wants to do with its employees.

What’s it got for its planning around their career? How do they want the employees to integrate into the company. It’s a great opportunity to get really young, fresh, innovative minds straight into the sector.

So, you know, we’ve got now I think around, I think about half a dozen industry or government departments that have signed up and I think more are coming for the next year’s cohort. At the moment we’re just focusing on computer science. So for this year, but for next year we’re doing computer science and cybersecurity. Surprise, Suprise! Both really hot areas at the moment. You know, our cybersecurity degree, the normal one, which was just a straight bachelor, without hardly any advertising or promotion, got 300 students enrolled in the very first year.

You know, and that just illustrates there’s a connection there between the expectations of what students want, which is knowing that they’ll probably get employment because everyone’s talking about cybersecurity, media bank, you know, other type of crazy things that are happening with people losing data and so forth. So, people understanding that’s there and they’re looking to see that there’s an employment pathway. So, we thought alright, we were very successful with the computer science version of IDEA. Now we have computer science and cybersecurity starting both next year.

So that is going to satisfy the industry requirements, probably not entirely because there’s still a skill shortage, but we’re growing that pipeline for industry and giving the opportunity for students to work close with industry from the very beginning. 

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