Practical student internships play an important role in university courses but some placements can be disappointing because a ‘one size fits all’ programme often fails to deliver in terms of a relevant and useful industry experience for the student.
But what if students could design their own internship – one that delivers exactly what they are looking for in terms of hands-on experience and which helps focus and guide their future work plans?
That’s exactly what a unique partnership between King and Wood Mallesons (KWM) and the UTS Law Faculty has achieved for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
The new Pathways Programme is especially for indigenous law students and it was designed by them as well.
Earlier this year KWM representatives held an intensive ‘design thinking’ workshop with a group of indigenous UTS Law students.
Over several hours of discussion and collaboration, KWM’s Community Impact Manager, Megan Barnett-Smith helped the students pinpoint their needs and aspirations and define what their ideal internship would look like:
Design Thinking was integral to the creation of this programme. The workshop allowed us to truly listen to what indigenous students want in an internship and that’s exactly what we are now delivering.
The result is a 24 day flexible paid work experience program which will run over three months.
It offers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander law students a ‘smorgasbord’ of experiences across the various career pathways available in the legal profession.
The goal is to help the students develop industry specific skills and ensure they are well placed to secure employment in the legal industry once they complete their studies.
Head of KWM’s Pro Bono and Community Impact program, Dan Creasey, says legal internships must evolve to fit the changing workplace and the Pathways Programme helps to address the barriers to entry faced by many indigenous students:
It’s about providing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students with the chance to engage directly with the industry throughout the course of their degree and about ensuring that they have the best possible experience when interning at KWM. It is a step in the right direction with regard to a greater representation of Indigenous Australians in our profession.
UTS Law Associate Dean, Maxine Evers says the UTS Law degree is particularly focussed on the practical and the Pathways programme is a perfect fit:
We have a strong reputation for practical and professional learning through our course work and our partnership programmes. We are also committed to embedding indigenous learning across all our courses as well as assisting our indigenous students reach their full potential.
The flexible programme means students will be able to choose their preferred working days and their legal practice areas of interest as well as additional secondment and networking experiences.
KWM has engaged its clients and community partners so interns will have the added advantage of working with the Human Rights Law Centre, AGL Energy and Tabcorp.
Executive Director of the Human Rights Law Centre, Hugh de Kretser says this initiative will help to address some of the failings of the past:
For too long Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been excluded from Australian legal systems and this has contributed to the harm that legal systems have caused them. The co-designed process in particular should be commended. We’re proud to be part of Pathways and look forward to welcoming the students to the Centre.
KWM launched Pathways to coincide with NAIDOC week. Students will begin their bespoke internship journey later this month and KWM plans to expand the programme to include the firm’s other offices around Australia.