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Every semester, undergraduate students at The Australian National University (ANU) have the unique opportunity to take on a consulting role that addresses a relevant issue at an Australian organisation.
As part of the Special Industry Project (SIP), a work-integrated learning course at the ANU College of Business and Economics (CBE), participating SIP students work closely with two industry partners – a business client, who provides the business case, and a team of mentors, who coach the teams.
In Semester 2, 2020, five teams of SIP students worked on a business case for the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation (CSC), a trustee of the superannuation schemes for Australian Government employees and Defence members.
CSC, in its ongoing focus and endeavours to support customers achieve the retirement outcome they seek, tasked SIP students to devise an approach to identify and track the capacity and propensity of its members to optimise their retirement outcomes.
This task required the students to “think outside the box” when considering the various moving components to this challenge and present something meaningful back to CSC.
Since the inception of SIP, the mentors for the course have been from Strategy&, the unit of PricewaterhouseCoopers that provides strategic advice to businesses. Working under their guidance, participating students not only identified issues facing their client and searched for business solutions, but they also learned valuable lessons from the experienced professionals at Strategy&. Several mentors are CBE and ANU alumni.
“The practical experience the mentees get from SIP allows them to improve their professional skills, such as business analysis, communication and critical thinking in a real-world setting,” shares Khurshed Mehta, a Strategy& associate and SIP mentor who completed a Bachelor of Finance at CBE in 2019.
His Strategy& colleague and fellow mentor, Isaac Cruz, who graduated with a Bachelor of Economics and Bachelor of Finance in 2018, found his involvement in the CBE course rewarding.
“The highlight of my mentorship experience was seeing the growth trajectory of my mentees. Their comfort with ambiguity and confidence with tackling a problem with no clear answer grew with time. It was pleasing seeing them develop and practice the skills one often uses as a consultant,” he says.
The winning SIP team of Semester 2, 2020 was ‘Capital Consultants’, who were awarded by a panel of CSC representatives after developing a comprehensive, solutions-focused report. Their recommendations entailed identifying the factors and actions influencing the retirement outcomes, creating two algorithms that assist a member’s progress towards their retirement goals, and developing several behavioural economic devices to encourage a positive action from its members.
Members of the winning team – Rocky, Gabby, Hannah, Charya and Ming – feel they have benefitted immensely from this unique learning experience.
Bachelor of Commerce (International Business), Politics, Philosophy and Economics
What are the most valuable insights you acquired through SIP?
“The most valuable insight I gained through SIP was the opportunity to learn about the superannuation industry. I also found working consistently in a team over the semester very valuable, as it replicated the professional work environment. Overall, participating in SIP was a great experience that further refined my collaboration and problem-solving skills.”
Bachelor of Commerce (Finance), Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
How has participating in SIP prepared you for the professional world?
“SIP reinforced the importance of clear planning and communication when undertaking large team projects. Core to our success was setting a clear and adaptable plan from the outset and making sure we were frequently communicating to keep on track. I think both skills will remain important in any client-facing profession.”
Bachelor of Business Administration, Bachelor of Commerce (Finance)
How did SIP bridge the gap between your theoretical and practical knowledge?
“It was great to experience first-hand the expectations of a professional workplace, as well as what it is like to work for a client under stressful conditions as a team. During this course, I developed my research and critical thinking skills as we tried to anticipate what our client wanted and meet deliverables.”
Bachelor of Finance (Capital Markets), Bachelor of Commerce (Economic Studies)
How has SIP influenced your career choices?
“SIP gave me the opportunity to provide solutions to a real-world business case that would greatly benefit society. I received industry exposure and access to a degree of professional mentoring that cannot be matched by traditional university courses. For these reasons, I believe participating in the program boosted my employability skills, whilst widening my career choices, and provided me a rich learning experience that I can draw from in the future.”
Ming Xuan Chong
Bachelor of Actuarial Studies, Bachelor of Commerce (Finance)
Could you share an experience from SIP that had an impact on you or challenged you personally?
“The weeks leading up to submission were the most challenging yet rewarding part of SIP. They taught me the importance of finding a balance between perfection and practicality, and managing the limited time at hand to maximise the impact of our deliverables for the client. This was especially prevalent in the final days of the project, when we had to prioritise the visualisation and delivery of the data over modelling that added little value.”
Applications for the Special Industry Project (SIP) in Semester 1, 2021 are now open until 11 February 2021. Click here for more details.
The ANU College of Business and Economics offers an extensive range of specialised programs. Click here for more details.
All photos in this story were taken by Cassandra Raco.