Deakin University has launched a new online portal, Australia and India SDG Internships, that will facilitate and promote student internships across Australia and India.
Deakin’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Iain Martin and Melbourne’s Consul General of India Dr Sushil Kumar presided over the formal launch of a new portal that will further increase ties in education, research, trade, and sustainable development between the two countries.
Dr Ameeta Jain, Senior Lecturer at Deakin Business School, is the force behind the internship portal. She told The Australia Today that internships in general demonstrate an effective way of creating “work-ready” students with the necessary skill sets and training valued by potential employers.
“The COVID pandemic resulted in a dearth of face-to-face student opportunities compromising our students’ job prospects. At the same time, the COVID pandemic highlighted the increasing importance of the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) which is my area of research interest. The DFAT grant provided a unique opportunity to explore the possibility of using virtual internships for our students to provide them with experience in tackling real-world problems using SDGs in India and Australia – the two countries close to me. This project has strengthened the ties between India and Australia and built new networks and connections which are of value to education, industry, and the society at large in both the countries.”
Dr Jain further observed:
“Host organisations can post internships on the portal and universities can access these to find opportunities that are relevant for their students. The portal website also includes resources for organisations that are interested in offering internships, so they can better understand the options available and the benefits that hosting interns can bring.”
Internships hosted through the portal are primarily aimed at helping non-government organisations (NGOs) with work focussed on the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), developing skills in the growing area of corporate social responsibility.
Dr Jain adds that smaller NGOs needed help but didn’t often have the resources to support internship opportunities.
“The capacity for virtual internships is especially important in enabling us to connect with a wide range of collaborators across both countries. We saw how virtual internships worked well, in part out of necessity, during the pandemic. But they can also offer a low-cost option for students who want to build international experience and connections.”
With funding from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Dr Jain worked alongside Dr Harsh Suri and Prof. Alex Newman to create this portal that would offer both virtual and face-to-face internship opportunities for Australian and Indian students across both countries.
Further, this internship program aims to bridge that gap, bringing together Australian and Indian students to work on projects and build positive cross-cultural relationships.
Kelly Vijaykumar Soni from Gujarat is pursuing a business analytics degree at Deakin University. In her final year, she is interning with the Goa Institute of Management and feels that this initiative as a great opportunity to practice teamwork.
“I helped my host organisation look at data to analyse progress around the Sustainable Development Goals, and I built new analytics dashboards. It was my first time working with data that wasn’t numbers, so it was a great practical experience to solve that problem.”
Kelly’s internship supervisor Dr Divya Singhal is Chair of the Centre for Social Sensitivity (CSSA), at the Goa Institute of Management. She said the new internship program was a fantastic way to collaborate and learn from each other.
“This program is beneficial at many levels. It provides participating organisations opportunity to network with each other, it can result in sharing best practices beyond the agreed project, and students also learn about other countries’ perspectives and situations.”
This is a positive step as many Indian international students suffered when Australia’s borders were closed during COVID. The stranded students felt a sudden disruption in their studies as they were spending time with family during the semester break.
Indian students typically study a two or four years course and move on to gain work experience in their field that helped in gaining permanent residency. Many students lost this valuable opportunity to use post-study work visas in Australia during the pandemic.
The latest figures show that Indian international student numbers in Australia had grown back but it will take some more time for student enrolments to return to pre-pandemic levels.