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Univative exposes students to the challenges of business world

Collaborative program helps students to gain valuable skills, hands-on experience

Teams of students received an insight into the business world and gained skills for their resume as part of a collaborative program between the University of Wollongong and local organisations.

Held at both the Wollongong and Liverpool campuses, Univative is an annual program that brings together multidisciplinary teams of students to solve real-world business problems.

The program provides valuable employment skills while helping students to build their professional networks and connect with prospective employers.

At Wollongong, 45 students, broken into eight teams, worked with four companies - Mercer Australia, Wollongong City Council, Roads and Maritime Services, and Aussie Books for Zim - to solve their unique business dilemmas. 

Mercer Australia asked for the students' help in considering how the company could best use their office space to create a flexible environment and improve outcomes for their customers

Amruthaa Srinivasan was the team leader for the winning team, Experto, which aimed to help Mercer increase flexibility in their workflow and provide a creative solution to their space dilemma at their Coniston-based offices.

“In our initial team meetings, we brainstormed different ideas and decided to circulate surveys to Mercer employees,” said Amruthaa, who is studying a Master of Applied Finance.

“Our goal was to understand the current organisation culture and provide solutions that would retain the ‘Illawarra aspect’ of the workplace. As a result, the employees were happy that their preferences were considered, and the judging panel was pleased that the solution was exactly what they were looking for.”

Amruthaa said taking part in iUnivative was an incredible experience and one she would recommend to other students.

“iUnivative has helped develop my transferable skills and gain hands-on experience in solving a business challenge. It was an intense four weeks, but a highly rewarding journey.”

The business relationship with Mercer comes on the back of a MOU between the company and UOW, announced in November 2017, which aims to create greater work experience and employment opportunities for students.

Nuala O’Donnell, Director of Graduate Career Development at Employment at UOW, said the experience opened the students’ eyes to the complexities and challenges of the business world.

“With employment trends indicating a significant shift to freelance work in the professional workforce, it is important to UOW to provide opportunities to students to experience, and be prepared for a diversity of career paths,” Ms O’Donnell said.

“The Univative experience situates students as consultants, giving participants first-hand experience of what it’s like to work remotely, to compete on projects, and then to present their recommendations to a panel of industry representatives.”

UOW Univative Program Liverpool

Univative was run at UOW’s South Western Sydney Campus for the first time and saw a team of students (pictured above) work with Northcott Casula, a Liverpool-based disability services provider, to investigate a business challenge.

Five students took part in the program, which ran over three weeks. Northcott enlisted the students’ help to come up with a solution on how to encourage local businesses to take on customers with a disability.

The team of undergraduate students, with backgrounds in computer science and business, thoroughly investigated the topic and provided Northcott with a range of short- and long-term strategies for the organisation to consider.

Associate Professor Christopher Magee, Academic Director of UOW South Western Sydney, said Univative was a positive experience for the students and strengthened the campus’s links with the Liverpool community.

“Social justice and community engagement are the key principles that underpin UOW South Western Sydney, so we are excited to see our students put these principles into practice through Univative,” Professor Magee said.

“This project was very successful, with students having the opportunity to gain valuable real-world experience while Northcott was exposed to the talented, enthusiastic students we have at our South Western Sydney Campus.”