Reasons for IT
More than being just another requirement for engineering students, IT is an important opportunity for engineering students to seed their careers in a particular industry; or alternately, it may help students to clarify which sector of the industry they wish to pursue a career in. But most important of all, IT works to develop an individual's sense of professionalism by experiencing first hand the industry's culture and practices; learning from professionals their roles and responsibilities as active professionals.
In recognition of the importance of IT, Engineers Australia (previously known as the Institute of Engineers Australia, IEAust), which is the organization that accredits all engineering programs in Australia, strongly supports Industrial Training. According to their accreditation guidelines:
It is considered that there is no real substitute for first-hand experience in an engineering-practice environment, outside the university. IEAust strongly advocates that all engineering schools include a minimum of 12 weeks of such experience...
Many employers utilize the Industrial Training period as an opportunity to evaluate students for future graduate positions. It is your technical skills as well as your ability to take on and handle given responsibilities and make sound decisions that will strengthen your prospects. It is therefore not uncommon for students who rise to the challenge to be offered a continuing position after their initial industrial training period.
Commencing your IT
Students may commence their IT by the end of their second year of study. Common practice is to engage in IT during the summer semester breaks, either between 2nd-3rd and/or 3rd-4th year of your degree. Our expectation is for students to have accumulated a minimum of 60 working days of IT before they commence their 4th year of study. That means students may opt to engage in 30 working days of IT at the end of their 2nd year and another 30 working days at the end of their 3rd year--this arrangement suits those who may have other commitments over summer break.
Alternately, some students may wish to commit their entire summer break towards completing 60 working days of IT at the end of their 3rd year. However, a potential difficulty may arise if you are unable to find a suitable position, which then puts a great deal of pressure on yourself to satisfy your IT requirement at the end of your 4th year and still be eligible to graduate with your friends at the next ceremony. It cannot be over emphasized that you cannot graduate until you've satisfied all your degree requirements, this includes your IT---there are no exceptions.
We therefore recommended that students do not leave their IT to the end of 4th year. With a highly competitive Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry, it may not be so easy to find a suitable IT position within the required timeframe. Many companies will be looking for potential graduates and/or trainees in the second half of the year with many having filled such positions well before the end of the year. It would therefore be foolish to think that you have plenty of time to find a suitable IT position.
Industrial training is an important component of all Engineering programs. It requires an appropriate placement in an industrial/commerical setting outside the University environment. The responsibility of finding such a placement rests with the student and not that of the general or academic staff.
Fundamental to IT is work undertaken out in industry. Being such a large industry it is not uncommon for students to ask "what is an acceptable industry for me to work in?" and "what sort of work is acceptable for IT?" Both questions cannot be answered easily because of the pervasive nature of information and communication technologies in every domain of business---there is hardly an industry unaffected by some form of information and/or communication technology. Consequently where there is a need to manage information and/or to communicate electronically, there exists a potential to acquire suitable IT.
One of the key elements we are looking for is adequate supervision during your IT. Ideally your immediate supervisor should be a competent professional with a degree in computing (or equivalent), or at least 5 years of experience in the ICT industry. For students in bioinformatics, you have an option to do your IT either in the ICT sector or in an area more closely related to the biomedical domain. A suitable supervisor in this area should have either an appropriate qualification in bioinformatics (or related biomedical field) or an equivalent of 5 years experience in that area of the industry.
Another key element is the work you'll be asked to perform. It must be commensurate with your stage of study and degree. As such, the complexity of tasks undertaken by a senior student should be more challenging than those undertaken by those less senior. While it is not always possible to be engaged in "special projects" for the whole of your IT (as there will always be a certain level of clerical and administrative work), the expectation is that the projects you'll be involved in will be non-trivial. For example, building static web pages or assembling computers and installing software or technical sales and/or help desk support are just some of the positions we consider to be unsuitable. Students whose IT is judged to be inadequately supervised and/or consist of tasks that are considered unsuitable may find the number of days credited against their IT reduced accordingly.
If you have any doubt about the suitability of the work undertaken, you should discuss this with the IT-Coordinator. Do not act in the blind faith that everything will be okay. Many problems can be resolved if it is dealt with early.
Internal IT is considered to be work undertaken within the confines of a university or any of its affiliated organizations and sites. The UNSW Taste of Research program cam be counted towards IT, however the number of days you can claim for this will be capped at 30 days. Any other paid employment and research scholarships undertaken internally may be consdered for IT. However, work that is judged to be inadequately supervised and/or consist of tasks that are unsuitable may result in the number of days credited against their IT reduced accordingly. For scholarships that are less than 60 days, the shortfall will need to be made up for, ideally in an industrial setting.
The change in policy recognizes that research and internal employment is a valuable activity for which student contributions ought to be recognized. However, unless your career aspiration is towards research, students are encouraged to do their IT in an industrial/commercial setting. Such a setting will provide you with valuable contacts and a tangible employment history for when you graduate.
If you have any doubts about the suitability of the work undertaken within the University, then you should discuss this with the IT-Coordinator.
Unacceptable Thesis Related IT
Students may not claim for IT time spent on work that either leads into their 4th year thesis or is concurrent with their 4th year thesis. There may be special exceptions but you will need to discuss this with the IT-Coordinator.
All students are required to write a report about their Industrial Training at the end of they employment. The IT report will be read by the IT Coordinator and it will be used as the basis by which to judge the quality of the training. Where necessary, the IT Coordinator may discuss your performance with the person who supervised you during your time with the company.
All IT reports must be submitted to the CSE School Office no later than 30 days after each period of employment (ie one IT report is required for every period of IT regardless of the number of days completed). For example, if you worked for a company during the June winter break for 20 days and another 40 days during the summer break, then you will need to submit 2 IT reports, one for the June employment period which must be submitted within 30 days from your last day of employment and another IT report for the summer period which must also to be submitted within 30 days from your last day of employment. This applies, regardless of whether both periods of employment is with the same employer or not.
If you do not submit your report within 30 days, or if it is significantly late, your IT report will not be accepted and as a consequence your IT will not count. Click here for information on what is required for the IT report.
If you have a legitimate reason why you cannot submit your IT report within 30 days, you must contact the IT Coordinator immediately to discuss the matter prior to the due date. Simply ignoring the matter will not resolve issue.
The 30 day report submission deadline is in place so that random audits can be made with respect to your employment and the activities undertaken. This helps us to verify your claims and to ensure that your employment was genuine.
The Need for Paid IT
IT is intended to be discharged by paid work in industry. As such, unpaid work will not count toward IT. There are moral/ethical, as well as, legal grounds as to why unpaid work is unacceptable. Unlike other engineering disciplines, engineering students in ICT are often engaged in significantly serious amounts of work, which at times result in significant responsibilities. It is not uncommon for such students to be engaged in a manner not too dissimilar to that of a graduate or a contractor. It would therefore be morally and ethically wrong to encourage companies to utilize our students in their business activities without appropriate remuneration in return for a fair day's work. There is little doubt that companies will work you hard in the time that you're there. Having spoken to a random sample of students at the end of their IT, many were glad for the paid IT policy because of the pressure and workload imposed by employers.
Besides protecting students from being exploited, there are also serious legal implications to working for free that relates to personal liability. When a student does unpaid work for a company, that company has no legal obligation towards the student's well being nor will it have any legal obligation to protect the student against any liability which may result from the student's action (regardless of whether the damage was caused accidentally or otherwise)---consequently, the student may be personally liable for any damage that results from his/her action(s) or for any personal injury sustained.
By insisting that all IT be paid, the student now becomes an employee of the company (albeit a casual), which ensures that the student would then be covered by the company's own professional indemnity and workers compensation insurance. The legally recognized (employer-employee) relationship therefore establishes a bilateral obligation between both parties and this serves to promote the seriousness of the relationship and the professionalism that is required of the student. As such, you now have as much of a professional responsibility towards your employer as they do towards you as the employee. Ideally you should have an employment contract that spells out your obligation as well as theirs before you commence your IT with that organization. In situations where there is no employment contract, you will need to act cautiously while seeking to get as many verbal agreements in writing as possible.
If you have any legal questions that related to your employment contract, intellectual property, employment secrecy/disclosure agreements, etc. you should contact Professionals Australia (formerly APESMA) for advice. As students you can join the association for free, which will then give you access to a wide range of support and services.
How Much Should I Get Paid?
How much should a student be paid will depend on the individual student and what qualifications and skills they bring to the negotiation table. Many students undersell their worth and it is important to recognize all your abilities not just the courses you've completed at University. Viable skills might include, for example, building a website, writing PHP programs, developing a computer game, installing Linux and so on. Just as important are your social activities, for instance, being part of SESOC or playing a team sport; these activities highlight your ability to be a team player. Conversely, do not make claims that you cannot substantiate, nothing destroys their confidence in you quicker than being caught out during your interview.
Having established that being paid is an essential requirement, then "what should I be paid?" is the next most frequently asked question. There is no established standard, how much you'll be paid ultimately depends on how well you can negotiate your worth as a important resource. An indicative range of salaries may be found here.
Finding IT comes easy to some students and not to others but no one is responsible for obtaining IT other than yourself. This may sound rather uncaring, but it is part and parcel of the IT process. It is about learning how to "market" and present yourself in a light that will win you that important job opportunity. As students, employers are far more understanding and forgiving of your inexperience as you stumble you way through the application process than as graduates. Again this is your opportunity to learn from each encounter in order to better yourself. If you still don't know where to start, then consult the Getting Help link.
You will need to be persistent in finding IT, and it is not uncommon for students to contact 50 to 100 companies before being successful---it is a very competitive industry so don't be discouraged. You will increase your chances significantly if you take the time to prepare a suitable resume and covering letter that targets the company you're applying to. It is recommended that you attend the free workshops on resume writing and interview techniques that's run by the Careers and Employment unit on campus.
IT approvals (local vs overseas)
Local students are expected to undertake at least part of their IT in Australia and for a majority of students there is no need to seek prior approval from the IT-Coordinator for local IT unless you feel there may be some doubt about your situation and/or the company's suitability. For overseas students, the option is available for you to complete the whole of your IT in your home country.
However before you can undertaken overseas IT, you must seek prior approval from the IT-Coordinator. The procedure involves a simple email transaction where you will need to provide the following information to the IT-Coordinator for consideration:
- The name of the company you want to work for (include URL if available);
- The name of your supervisor and their professional background;
- Duration of your IT and the work you have been engaged to perform;
- Details of any training that you will be given; and
- Your rate of pay.
If the information you've provided indicates that you'll receive adequate supervision and the work is appropriate, then you'll receive an email approval. You will need to attach a copy of this email to your IT report. Note: an overseas IT approval does not guarantee all IT working days claimed will be accredited; no decision will be made until the IT report is evaluated by the IT-Coordinator.
Overseas IT completed without prior approval will not be accepted. This means that you must seek approval before you accept the overseas placement.