The relationship between SSI Ignite Small Business Start-ups (Ignite) and the University of Wollongong (UOW) began almost two years ago and has since enabled several entrepreneurs from refugee backgrounds, or who are seeking asylum, to start their own businesses supported by a student from the UOW Faculty of Business.
Sandy Haig and Jorge Perez from the University of Wollongong are part of the Ignite resource team.
Ignite works with the support of business mentors and a Resource Team made up of volunteers from local businesses, councils, individuals and academic institutions that can share their business knowledge and skills. UOW’s Business Internship Program provides Ignite with students who can assist entrepreneurs in the areas of accounting, finance, marketing or human resources, giving students a practical stint in the real world of business and increasing their chances of finding a job once they finish.
"We tell our students that only having a degree isn’t enough anymore in the current highly competitive workforce," said UOW Business Liaison Manager Sandy Haig.
"Undertaking an internship with Ignite provides them with the opportunity to face professional challenges that any businessperson or entrepreneur has to deal with, making them more work-ready and ultimately more employable."
UOW students on placement at Ignite have to have completed the second year of their degree, have a minimum of a credit average mark and go through a selection process and an interview like for any other job position, Ms Haig said.
The Business Internship Program receives numerous applications from students eager to enhance their resume outside the university walls. The key, however, is to match the right person with the type of business where they can better fit in, especially in the case of Ignite.
Internship and Business Liaison Coordinator Jorge Perez said the type of students who are matched with Ignite are those who go beyond expressing an interest for the business and corporate world, but that want to connect with other cultures and people.
"Ignite is also a very interesting opportunity for those who have in mind starting their own business in the future, so they can see how it’s done from scratch," Mr Perez said.
Students who have completed their internship at Ignite are usually very satisfied with the experience as they get to perform hands-on work and make business decisions, something that is less common at a big corporate organisation, said Mr Perez.
Ignite Initiative Coordinator Dina Pertarkis said having the UOW’s Business Internship Program on the Resource Team has been extremely positive for Ignite and that both organisations now had an efficient program that works well and benefits both parties.
"The staff at the Business Internship Program are amazing at selecting the students who are more fitted for Ignite," said Ms Petrarkis.
"We are really happy with the partnership."
Since 2015, around 30 business students from the UOW have successfully undertaken an internship with Ignite.