Why Melbourne Polytech­nic is build­ing in­dus­try ties

Melbourne Polytech­nic is de­vel­op­ing stu­dents to meet the de­mands and chal­lenges of an ever-chang­ing work­force. Busi­ness First speaks with CEO Frances Cop­po­lillo about pre­par­ing stu­dents to have a pos­i­tive eco­nomic im­pact.

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In Fe­bru­ary 2018, Melbourne hosted its an­nual White Night event. The event, which is Melbourne’s ver­sion of the Nuit Blanche move­ment that orig­i­nated in Paris, turns the city into a kalei­do­scope of colour, mu­sic, move­ment and sensation.

Given the breadth of events held dur­ing the course of the night, this isn’t just a fun night out: it is also an ed­u­ca­tion.

Which is why Melbourne Polytech­nic has be­come White Night’s first ed­u­ca­tion part­ner spon­sor­ing Pa­trick Shearn’s 2018 Liq­uid Sky in­stal­la­tion.

“In­dus­try part­ner­ships like this are a great way for our stu­dents to see in prac­tice how the arts and en­gi­neer­ing skills they learn here have in­fi­nite use and mean­ing out­side the class­room,” says Natalie Robin­son, Melbourne Polytech­nic’s Di­rec­tor of Mar­ket­ing and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions. “There’s a real op­por­tu­nity for the stu­dents to bring that learn­ing back into the class­room and un­der­stand the wide va­ri­ety of op­por­tu­ni­ties they have, whether these op­por­tu­ni­ties are of­fered to them, or cre­ated by them.”

“These ex­pe­ri­ences re­ally il­lus­trate en­ter­prise skills like cre­ativ­ity, in­no­va­tion, prob­lem solv­ing, col­lab­o­ra­tion, that are es­sen­tial in the new world of work that stu­dents will be grad­u­at­ing into.”

Robin­son’s view here is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of what a Polytech­nic is. Re­cently ap­pointed CEO, Frances Cop­po­lillo says that a polytech­nic rep­re­sents a con­tin­uum of ed­u­ca­tion from Cer­tifi­cates to Masters, but most im­por­tantly this con­tin­uum is re­in­forced by deep re­la­tion­ships with in­dus­try.

At its essence, a polytech­nic com­bines hands-on TAFE (VET) and Higher Ed­u­ca­tion (De­gree) pro­grammes to equip stu­dents with the knowl­edge and skills to ex­cel in an evolv­ing and chal­leng­ing mar­ket­place.

Melbourne Polytech­nic stands out be­cause it fo­cuses on prac­ti­cal in­dus­try-rel­e­vant train­ing de­signed in col­lab­o­ra­tion with in­dus­try. It is Gov­ern­ment funded and owned and is de­signed to foster and en­cour­age di­ver­sity.

In­dus­try re­la­tion­ships are highly valu­able in this en­vi­ron­ment.

“In­dus­try en­gage­ment sup­ports work­force de­vel­op­ment and sec­ondly gives stu­dents real life ex­pe­ri­ences,” Cop­po­lillo says. “Learn­ing is much bet­ter em­bed­ded into some­one’s mind when they are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing work­site prac­tices.”

Cop­po­lillo knows a thing or two about best prac­tice in ed­u­ca­tion. She joined the VET sec­tor in 1986, spent 14 years as the Associate Di­rec­tor of the Fac­ulty of Fur­ther Ed­u­ca­tion at Melbourne Polytech­nic and Deputy Di­rec­tor Pro­grams – Teach­ing and Learn­ing and was ap­pointed to the foun­da­tion Board of the TAFE De­vel­op­ment Cen­tre.

She is recog­nised for her ed­u­ca­tional lead­er­ship and ex­pe­ri­ence in the de­liv­ery of qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing pro­vi­sion and her com­mit­ment to the pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment of staff.

Her lead­er­ship is cer­tainly ev­i­dent when speak­ing about the im­por­tance of re­la­tion­ships in the con­text of gain­ing real world ex­pe­ri­ence. WORK­ING WITH IN­DUS­TRY The ed­u­ca­tion/workplace re­la­tion­ship works two ways for Melbourne Polytech­nic. Firstly, it pro­vides in­sight into the chal­lenges faced by in­dus­try. This gives Melbourne Polytech­nic the op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate off­site pro­grams.

Sec­ondly, in­dus­try is en­cour­aged to pro­vide feed­back with re­la­tion to Melbourne Polytech­nic’s courses, their ap­pro­pri­ate­ness to stu­dents and how well in­dus­try and ed­u­ca­tion can work to­gether to meet each other’s needs.

“We work across higher ed­u­ca­tion and vo­ca­tional ed­u­ca­tion to cre­ate an ap­plied process to learn­ing,” Ms Cop­po­lillo says.

“It is ap­plied, ex­pe­ri­en­tial learn­ing in terms of tech­ni­cal skills, but it also gives promi­nence to en­ter­prise and soft skills that sup­port em­ploy­ment. We want to cre­ate ap­plied ex­pe­ri­ences where stu­dents work col­lab­o­ra­tively to solve prob­lems, which helps them adapt to new work­places.” WORKPLACE EVO­LU­TION There is no doubt the workplace is chang­ing day by day. New tech­nol­ogy, gen­er­a­tion gaps, chang­ing HR prac­tices all fac­tor into the way busi­nesses now op­er­ate.

Cop­po­lillo says part of the prob­lem is the in­dus­trial con­struct that most work­places are based on.

“In­dus­try and ed­u­ca­tion is based on an in­dus­trial con­struct which is fast crum­bling. So the ques­tion be­comes, how do we cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment that en­ables stu­dents to adapt to mod­ern workplace changes and chal­lenges as well as give them the tech­ni­cal knowl­edge,

peo­ple skills and think­ing skills re­quired to suc­ceed in this en­vi­ron­ment.”

Cop­po­lillo, who was ap­pointed as CEO in Novem­ber last year says in the in­dus­trial age 10% of the work­force was re­quired to think and 90% needed to do. What we are see­ing now is ev­ery­body needs to think and do at the same time.

“As one is crum­bling the other is form­ing, so how do we best cre­ate path­ways across dis­ci­plines that bring learn­ers to­gether and ad­dresses these chal­lenges?”

It all comes down to col­lab­o­ra­tion: be­tween in­dus­try and stu­dents, be­tween stu­dents and other stu­dents. The way for­ward is through col­lab­o­ra­tion, un­der­stand­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion. It is through agility and an en­quiry based learn­ing ped­a­gogy that brings to­gether var­i­ous dis­ci­plines and knowl­edge bases that are at­trac­tive to em­ploy­ers. IN­TER­NA­TIONAL OUTLOOK When asked about the im­por­tance of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tion­ships, it is clear that Cop­po­lillo sees that all re­la­tion­ships are con­nected to the end goal of pre­par­ing stu­dents for the work­force whilst con­tribut­ing to in­dus­try and econ­omy.

In­ter­est­ingly, Melbourne Polytech­nic is do­ing this on a global scale.

“Whilst we are sup­port­ing lo­cal in­dus­try to grow, we also have a global outlook,” she says.

Melbourne Polytech­nic has 5000 off­shore stu­dents work­ing in China and through­out Asia. It has in­ter­na­tional stu­dents com­ing to study here from over 70 coun­tries, across six cam­puses and over eighty courses.

It be­gan its China pro­gram back in 1995 and has thrived since. Its part­ner­ships are also di­verse. From the In­sur­ance Pro­fes­sional Col­lege, to Shan­dong Man­age­ment School and Wuhan Tourism School, stu­dents can gain valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence im­mers­ing them­selves in dif­fer­ent learn­ing cul­tures and work ex­pe­ri­ences.

Other part­ner­ships in­clude Hong Kong Uni­ver­sal Ed­u­ca­tion, Shin An­san Uni­ver­sity in Korea and Wandee Culi­nary Tech­no­log­i­cal Uni­ver­sity in Thai­land.

“Our col­lab­o­ra­tions are var­ied and we of­fer off­shore pro­grams where peo­ple are look­ing for Aus­tralian qual­i­fi­ca­tions, in­ter­na­tional skills, train­ing and sup­port.”

Im­por­tantly, Fuzhou Melbourne Polytech­nic (for­merly IEN In­sti­tute of Min­jiang Uni­ver­sity) is an in­ter­na­tional in­sti­tute in co­op­er­a­tion with Min­jiang Uni­ver­sity and Melbourne Polytech­nic, and has 18-years ex­pe­ri­ence in Sino-for­eign ed­u­ca­tion that is in­valu­able for Melbourne Polytech­nic’s stu­dents. It is the first in­de­pen­dent Sino-for­eign co­op­er­a­tive ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tute in Fu­jian Prov­ince, and the 12th of its kind in China.

Fi­nally, Melbourne Polytech­nic is in­volved in an aid-funded project in Mon­go­lia with Um­nigobi Polytech­nic.

“Ed­u­ca­tion is a big in­dus­try and a big ex­port in Aus­tralia. It is vi­tal that in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic stu­dents are in­volved in an ex­change be­cause it cre­ates such big op­por­tu­ni­ties not only for them­selves but for fu­ture eco­nomic pros­per­ity and un­der­stand­ing.” CON­TIN­U­ING A LEGACY Cop­po­lillo is the first fe­male CEO for Melbourne Polytech­nic and her goals are cer­tainly aligned with Melbourne Polytech­nic.

The goal is to have the Melbourne Polytech­nic team con­trib­ute to mak­ing Melbourne Polytech­nic in­dis­pen­si­ble to the com­mu­nity and in­dus­try.

“We want Melbourne Polytech­nic to be the place to come to de­velop com­mu­nity con­nec­tions and in­valu­able skills for fu­ture em­ploy­ment. We want them to have skills that in­dus­try sees as rel­e­vant to their work­force. We want them to be highly con­nected in an eco­nomic and so­cial sense. Our stu­dents gain valu­able ca­pa­bil­i­ties with us and to con­tinue to im­prove those ca­pa­bil­i­ties would be a great legacy.”

Melbourne Polytech­nic prides it­self on be­ing a multi-cul­tural com­mu­nity that is re­spon­si­ble for im­prov­ing the skills of and sup­port­ing all stu­dents, in­clud­ing a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of refugees and mi­grants.

“Like all our stu­dents we want them to find their feet, make an eco­nomic im­pact and have so­cial co­he­sion.”

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