On­line plat­form for spe­cial needs in­tern­ship

New Straits Times - - Higher Ed - Rsani@nst.com.my PRISHALINI RAJAGUMAR,

ROZANA SANI

INTERNSHIPS are key to build­ing ex­pe­ri­ence as a stu­dent. They pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties to get a foot in the door, ex­plore var­i­ous in­dus­tries, gain new skills, ap­ply knowl­edge to real-world sit­u­a­tions, learn about strengths and weak­nesses and build a net­work.

How­ever, stu­dents with spe­cial needs may have it more chal­leng­ing when it comes to ap­ply­ing for in­tern­ship place­ments as not all em­ploy­ers sub­scribe to equal op­por­tu­nity be­liefs.

With this in mind, three stu­dents from The Univer­sity of Not­ting­ham Malaysia Cam­pus (UNMC) have cre­ated a plat­form to al­low em­ploy­ers to of­fer in­tern­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents with spe­cial needs.

Stu­dents Prishalini Rajagumar, Wael Al­droubi and Tariq Mo­ham­mad joined forces to form a web­site called Spe­cial Needs In­tern­ship Pro­gram (SNIP), to cre­ate ac­cess for spe­cial needs stu­dents and em­ploy­ers for po­ten­tial in­tern­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties. Their idea was a re­sult of their par­tic­i­pa­tion in The Univer­sity of Not­ting­ham’s In­ge­nu­ity17 tri-cam­pus com­pe­ti­tion.

“SNIP is an in­clu­sive so­lu­tion for the world’s largest mi­nor­ity group. It is an in­tern­ship match­ing web­site that al­lows dis­abled stu­dents to high­light their ca­pa­bil­i­ties to ac­cess pro­fes­sional work­force. SNIP ad­vo­cates ‘abil­ity first’ and en­cour­ages com­pa­nies to lever­age on the po­ten­tial of an un­der-ex­plored pool of tal­ent within our com­mu­nity,” said 21-year old Prishalini, a Malaysian study­ing BSc (Hons) Psy­chol­ogy and Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science,

She high­lighted that SNIP fully sup­ports the Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals, in par­tic­u­lar Goal 10: Re­duced Inequal­i­ties, and aims to help Malaysia and other coun­tries who will use its web­site to con­trib­ute to the 2030 mis­sion. “SNIP’s aim is to bridge the gap be­tween un­der­grad­u­ates with dis­abil­i­ties and pro­fes­sional em­ploy­ment,” she said.

Ac­cord­ing to Prishalini, she first pitched the idea for SNIP — be­fore the team was formed — to pri­vate or­gan­i­sa­tions in Malaysia in 2014 at a small pitch­ing ses­sion or­gan­ised in con­junc­tion of an on-cam­pus event.

“SNIP did not man­age to se­cure any form of fund­ing through this pitch as its con­cept was still too young. Fol­low­ing that pitch, SNIP was on hold for a year from 2015 to 2016 as I was serv­ing as the pres­i­dent of JCI Youth (Ju­nior Cham­ber In­ter­na­tional) UNMC — an on-cam­pus stu­dent or­gan­i­sa­tion. It was through my term with JCI Youth and my in­tern­ship over that sum­mer with Im­pact Hub KL that I learned about star­tups and so­cial en­trepreneur­ship. With that ex­pe­ri­ence, SNIP’s con­cept was strength­ened and I de­cided to push for its devel­op­ment late last year. It was then our team was formed,” she said.

Prishalini sent an email to the com­puter sci­ence so­ci­ety on cam­pus about her project idea early this year and Tariq Mo­ham­mad who is SNIP’s web de­vel­oper re­sponded show­ing his in­ter­est in this project. The 21-year-old Egyp­tian study­ing Foun­da­tion pro­gramme in Sci­ence in­tro­duced Prishalini to Wael Al­droubi,26, — a Syr­ian study­ing for a BSc (Hons) Com­puter Sci­ence de­gree — who then be­came SNIP’s web de­signer.

“Tariq works mainly on the cod­ing of the web­site. While Wael works on the web­site’s in­ter­face. He also sup­ports Tariq in web devel­op­ment. Both Tariq and Wael are in­volved in build­ing this web­site from scratch. I am the project lead. I work pri­mar­ily on get­ting SNIP’s con­cept to work i.e. out­reach to po­ten­tial users and em­ploy­ers.

“Both Tariq and Wael’s pri­mary in­ter­est in join­ing this project was the im­pact it was try­ing to cre­ate and the pur­pose it served. They also saw this project as an op­por­tu­nity for them to build on their web de­vel­op­ing and de­sign­ing skills. Tariq has had ba­sic web devel­op­ment skills but he cred­its his close friends and fa­ther for sup­port­ing and coach­ing him. Wael gained his ex­pe­ri­ence through self learn­ing and on­line cour­ses,” Prishalini elab­o­rated.

Af­ter form­ing a team, SNIP’s devel­op­ment has been rapid. “Al­most im­me­di­ately, Tariq and Wael started work­ing on build­ing SNIP. It took them two months to code and de­sign the web­site in be­tween stud­ies and classes,” said Prishalini.

The SNIP team, to­gether with 23 teams con­sist­ing of 59 stu­dents and alumni from UNMC, sub­mit­ted their ap­pli­ca­tions for en­ter­ing In­ge­nu­ity17 — an en­trepreneur­ship com­pe­ti­tion that is a tri-cam­pus event and open to all Univer­sity of Not­ting­ham (UoN) un­der­grad­u­ates, post­grad­u­ates, alumni and early stage re­searchers in the United King­dom, Malaysia and China. With a £100,000 (RM557,700) prize fund on of­fer, the com­pe­ti­tion hopes to pro­pel stu­dent and alumni start-ups to suc­cess with in­ten­sive devel­op­ment ses­sions, learn­ing from a range of key in­dus­try ex­perts, and the op­por­tu­nity to show­case their work on a global stage.

The teams at UNMC joined the In­ge­nu­ity17 BootCamp Pro­gramme on Feb 20 and 21, which pro­vided train­ing for the en­trants and men­tor­ing from ex­pe­ri­enced and suc­cess­ful busi­ness own­ers in sec­tors in­clud­ing ap­pli­ca­tions and soft­ware, fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance, green tech­nol­ogy and con­sul­tancy ser­vices.

Another ses­sion on Suc­cess­ful Busi­ness Pre­sen­ta­tion was held on March 7 with Datuk Vinod Sekhar, the founder of the Vinod Sekhar In­cu­ba­tion Cen­tre (VSIC) at UNMC, and Stephen Ball, lead part­ner of Klyn­veld Peat Mar­wick Go­erdeler (KPMG), UK. The stu­dents were pre­pared with all the tools, in­spi­ra­tion and con­fi­dence needed to sub­mit a busi­ness plan for the com­pe­ti­tion.

Team SNIP from UNMC suc­ceeded from Stu­dent,

BSc (Hons) Psy­chol­ogy and Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science more than 103 teams to win the Asia Busi­ness Prize Award of £3,000 (RM16,700).

Ac­cord­ing to UNMC Vice Provost (Re­search & Knowl­edge Ex­change) Pro­fes­sor Claire O’ Mal­ley: “We are proud to be win­ners of the Asia Busi­ness Cat­e­gory. As a first time par­tic­i­pant in the In­ge­nu­ity com­pe­ti­tion this year, it is a great ac­co­lade for UNMC and tes­ta­ment to the en­tre­pre­neur­ial qual­ity of our stu­dents. I con­grat­u­late all stu­dents, staff, alumni and in­dus­try part­ners who were in­volved.”

Ac­cord­ing to Prishalini: “Through In­ge­nu­ity, SNIP is fi­nally grow­ing into an im­ple­mentable so­lu­tion within Malaysia and hopes to be­come a global so­lu­tion provider for spe­cial needs stu­dents world­wide.

“As a team, this ex­pe­ri­ence has given us the con­fi­dence to ex­pand on SNIP’s po­ten­tial. We are ex­tremely grate­ful and hon­oured to have not only rep­re­sented UNMC, but to have rep­re­sen­ta­tion from our home coun­tries of Malaysia, Syria and Egypt in this in­ter­na­tional plat­form. We are gen­uinely thank­ful to In­ge­nu­ity17 for this amaz­ing op­por­tu­nity and ex­pe­ri­ence,” she said.

Right now the team’s fo­cus is to pre­pare SNIP for its pi­lot test­ing phase which in­cludes en­sur­ing the web­site is ready for test and en­sur­ing they have reached out to as many in­ter­ested users and em­ploy­ers as pos­si­ble in or­der to proof the team’s con­cept and busi­ness model.

“As a web­site SNIP will al­low our users (stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties) to cre­ate their per­son­alised pro­file and up­load their re­sumes. Be­ing a spe­cial needs web­site, SNIP will in­cor­po­rate spe­cial needs friendly fea­tures to cater a user friendly ex­pe­ri­ence for our users. We hope to be fully avail­able to all spe­cial needs un­der­grad­u­ates across Malaysia and em­ploy­ers by the end of 2018,” said Prishalini whilst high­light­ing SNIP aims to bridge the gap be­tween dis­abled un­der­grad­u­ates and pro­fes­sional em­ploy­ment world­wide.

SNIP ad­vo­cates ‘abil­ity first’ and en­cour­ages com­pa­nies to lever­age on the po­ten­tial of an un­der-ex­plored pool of tal­ent within our com­mu­nity.”

UNMC win­ners (from left to right) Tariq Mo­ham­mad, Wael Al­droubi and Prishalini Rajagumar with Pro­fes­sor Claire O’ Mal­ley.

Stu­dents at In­ge­nu­ity17 BootCamp hav­ing group dis­cus­sion on a mini as­sign­ment given dur­ing a ses­sion.

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