Professional development through partnerships

SIP Winning team group Photo

8 minute read

Since its inception three years ago, the Special Industry Project (SIP), a work-integrated learning course at the ANU College of Business and Economics (CBE), has contributed to solving business cases presented by organisations across Australia.

Mimicking the real-world consulting environment, students enrolled in SIP take on a consulting role, working in teams to devise the best solution to a business case. A panel of executives from the client organisation then selects a ‘winning’ team. As the course aims to facilitate the undergraduate students’ professional development, SIP involves two industry partners – a client, who provides the business case, and a mentor, who coaches the teams.

In the past, CBE students completed projects with clients such as Unilever, the National Australia Bank, St John Ambulance, and the Royal Australian Mint.

During the Semester 1, 2020 SIP, 27 students split across five teams worked on a business case for Twofold Aboriginal Corporation. Based on the southern NSW coast at Jigamy Farm, Twofold is a not-for-profit and a 100 per cent Aboriginal-owned corporation. The SIP students were tasked with finding a multipurpose platform for Jigamy’s development through the 2021 Giiyong Festival and related cultural and ecotourism activities.

The mentors for the 2020 SIP were Strategy&, the unit of PricewaterhouseCoopers that provides strategic advice to businesses. Working under their guidance, participating students not only identified issues facing the client and searched for business solutions, but also learned valuable lessons from Strategy&’s experienced professionals.

The SIP engagement between ANU and Twofold is a great, practical example of great mutual benefits.

“Before SIP, I felt my creative skills were either unoriginal or sub-par, and I lacked confidence. However, this course has encouraged me to consider more creative roles in my field. I now think I have great technical and soft skills, and I am not afraid to leverage them,” reflects Karla Martin, a graduate of The Australian National University (ANU) and member of the winning SIP team.

Suggesting a comprehensive approach, which incorporated components ranging from funding and human resources to visitor accessibility and long-term community engagement, Karla’s team suggested that Twofold adopt a proactive plan and make the Giiyong Festival a ‘waste-wise’ event. 

Professor Asmi Wood from the ANU College of Law played a key role in facilitating the recent SIP engagement between ANU and Twofold. Calling it a “great, practical example of great mutual benefits,” Professor Wood believes this connection can set a precedent for ANU, who can extend their rich expertise to more Indigenous communities.

“Twofold welcomes the relationship with ANU, and it benefits in many ways from this. COVID put a spanner in the works that prevented normal physical exchanges and field visits from students. This notwithstanding, the calibre and engagement from all of the students, mentors and supervisors in this course was outstanding. We were astonished and humbled at the amount of work, innovative thought and attention to detail the students brought to their projects. In one way, it was a shame that this project was set up on the basis of competition or, at least, friendly rivalry between the student work groups, because it became very difficult to adjudicate between them. All projects had extraordinary merit, thought and detail, and the choice in the end of the ‘winner’ was arbitrary but well deserved. We extend our heartfelt thanks to ANU and the students, and welcome future engagement in this exciting space”, said Craig Mills, CEO of Twofold.

Before SIP, I felt my creative skills were either unoriginal or sub-par, and I lacked confidence. However, this course has encouraged me to consider more creative roles in my field.

The 2020 SIP wasn’t the first time ANU and Twofold Aboriginal Corporation collaborated; the partnership was established in 2015 through the Bundian Way Arts Exchange, a cultural-exchange project initiated by the ANU School of Art and Design and supported via ArtsACT, and was subsequently expanded through the CBE Internship Program.

Six CBE students completed their summer internships at Twofold as a part of the CBE Internship Program in December 2019 and January 2020. The students worked on three projects: Website development and marketing; streamlining accounting and finance systems; and developing documents and templates for tender submissions.

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Professor Wood is optimistic that the partnership between Twofold and ANU will thrive in the future.

“The engagement between Twofold Aboriginal Corporation and our students have been extraordinarily positive, mainly due to the hard work of many, but clearly because of the strong leadership and guidance of Professor Steven Roberts, CBE’s Dean, and the effective relationship management and content supervision of Associate Professor Vinh Lu, CBE’s Associate Dean (Advancement and Engagement). This is an ongoing relationship, which adheres to the University’s strong ethical base for engagement. We hope this relationship continues into the future. It is a great, practical example of the great benefits achieved through handwork, goodwill and mutual respect,” shares Professor Wood.

Professor Steven Roberts, CBE Dean, echoes the sentiment: “On behalf of the College, I would like to express my gratitude to Strategy&, Professor Asmi Wood and particularly to the Twofold Aboriginal Corporation for being involved in this exciting educational program. The opportunity for our students to engage with Twofold on real-world problems has provided them with a wealth of experience and insight that will serve them well in their future endeavours. The College is looking forward to a continued relationship with Twofold”.

CBE will continue to offer SIP each semester and looks forward to seeing future solutions to business problems encountered by other organisations.

The ANU College of Business and Economics offers an extensive range of specialised programs. Click here for more details.

Semester 1, 2020 Special Industry Project winning team (L-R) — Hamish Williams, Karla Martin, Luisa Vilela Cury Oliveira, Melissa Woodley and Aaron Z. | Image: David Wu