Students placed on cutting-edge IT projects

The Victorian government in Australia is overseeing a program that will place university students on cutting-edge IT projects with businesses, rather than see them through potentially boring work experience placements.
Written by Michael Lee, Contributor

Nine Victorian companies have received vouchers from the state government worth up to AU$10,000 to better involve university students and academics in developing new IT projects.

The Technology Student Accelerator Vouchers are aimed at connecting small and medium sized enterprises with students out of RMIT University, Swinburne University of Technology, University of Ballarat, and the University of Melbourne.

The vouchers are not simply hand-outs by the state government, however. In order for businesses to qualify, they must make a cash co-contribution of 25 percent of the voucher amount to help support the cost of engaging students.

The vouchers also lock the businesses into committing themselves towards a project. Businesses using vouchers must commence their new IT project within three months of voucher issue, and have a further three months to complete it.

The voucher system also prohibits the involved companies from passing off routine IT tasks to students. Work such as developing online ordering websites, testing software, or configuring networking systems are not considered to be IT projects that are innovative enough to qualify. Instead, the companies have been required to find projects that are considered to use new or existing technology in more interesting or cutting-edge ways.

These projects include a real-time digital content delivery mechanism for mass communication; testing of frequencies for bulk reading of radio frequency identification tags; a project to collect new social data points; research towards new modelling and data-mining approaches; and examining how to provide more effective social media engagement.

To ensure that students have the proper guidance through these projects, each company must dedicate a supervisor to oversee their progress and to work with the respective students' academic supervisors.

The student vouchers form part of the Victorian government's AU$8 million Technology Voucher Program. Its Technology Implementation Vouchers and Technology Development Vouchers were valued at up to AU$250,000 and AU$50,000, respectively, and involved working with suppliers rather than students.

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