The Wintec Centre for Information Technology realised that they may not be as many internship opportunities around for IT students this year due to COVID-19, so the centre decided to create opportunities of its own.
‘The Gig' is essentially a ‘MakerLab' that is operated virtually as a real IT company, with real clients. The aim is to help students work together to gain hands-on experience running an IT firm.
While it was initially just a pilot programme, Wintec has since dubbed it a ‘roaring' success. Wintec Centre for Information Technology industry relationship manager Alison Marshall came up with the idea.
“When COVID-19 hit, all of our students had to go virtual. We could see with the potential economic downturn that there would be a drop off in internships available. I thought that if we had to stay working in a virtual environment, there would continue to be opportunities for those students,” says Marshall.
“We've made roles for everybody. I'm the director, and we've got two of our Wintec staff working there too – Heather Maitland as agile coach and Alex Yu as technical lead. If you were running an IT company, those would be the roles leading the operations every day,” says Marshall.
“We give the students industry roles such as scrum masters, engineers, business analysts and a security consultant.”
Marshall says students appreciate real-world experience through working with their clients.
But it's not just a playground for students - clients can experiment and test their early-stage ideas.
Clients include Healing Innovation Hub, which was trialling a virtual reality (VR) app to help youth with mental health and wellbeing; and ThrillCapital, a sports funding firm that wants to create a global racing competition through VR simulations.
“The Gig's input has been extremely useful as we are now able to examine and work on ideas outside of our own echo chamber,” says ThrillCapital's David Tomlinson.
Marshall hopes that The Gig will evolve into a fully-fledged MakerLab.
“We want to ensure that the work we do with The Gig doesn't detract from industry, so we've set rules created after consulting an industry advisory group on what kinds of projects we should be taking on. These include innovation ideas in our sector that need support to get their idea going or projects from not-for-profits that give back to their community, that need technical help or prototyping.
The centre may also connect with other Wintec centres, such as the School of Media Arts, as well as other STEM subjects.
“The Gig links into future of work principles where students can get real experiences for their future prospects and works as a transition from study into employment.