More than just book smart: How cooperative education is producing job-ready business graduates
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More than just book smart: How cooperative education is producing job-ready business graduates

More than just book smart: How cooperative education is producing job-ready business graduates

Auckland University of Technology (AUT) is New Zealand’s third largest higher education institution. It holds an impressive four-star rating from the prestigious QS World University Rankings, as well as a maximum five-star rating in five sub-categories including teaching, internationalisation and employability.

AUT’s Business School also boasts a four-star QS rating and, with over 5,000 students, is one of the country’s largest providers of a professional business education. The school is among an elite group of 5 percent of business schools worldwide to be accredited by AACSB International – the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business – and is internationally renowned for the high quality of its business graduates.

On paper, the school is everything a prospective student would look for in a business education, and the fact that graduates exhibit the highest employment rate in the country speaks for itself. But what exactly is it that sets AUT’s business graduates apart from all the rest?

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Emma Steven, a former AUT student who completed her Bachelor of Business last year, says the course’s involvement with industry and workplace opportunities is part of what makes her qualification so distinguished.

“Throughout my undergraduate and postgraduate study at AUT there has been great industry involvement – including guest speakers, industry experience, store visits and networking opportunities,” she says. “The Bachelor of Business (Honours) is a great programme that further develops your skills, proving to potential employers that you know the value of hard work.”

The reason AUT’s graduates thrive in the evolving world of business is because practice-based learning, alongside exclusive workplace experience, gives them the expertise required to tackle any challenge presented in a complex global marketplace. Business partnerships are systematic across the entire Business Faculty, providing invaluable opportunities for students on both a national and international level.

“The Bachelor of Business programme is unique in New Zealand for including a compulsory internship,” says Professor Geoff Perry, Vice Chancellor and Dean of AUT’s Faculty of Business and Law. “Students find this hands-on experience perfectly complements their study and can even lead to full-time employment.”

In their final year, Bachelor of Business students take part in the Co-operative Education project; a nine-week work placement that enables them to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to real-world business environments.

The project pushes students far out of their comfort zone as they experience the realities of the working environment, developing the professional knack and know-how that enables them to tackle the daily challenges of industry.

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Hagar Skye Turner studied AUT’s Bachelor of Business, and now works as marketing manager for Flooring Xtra, New Zealand’s largest flooring retailer. In her role, Turner frequently draws on what she learned from her degree, and cites the institution’s reputation for innovation and progression as the overriding reason she chose to study at AUT.

“Employers want graduates who are not only book smart, but who have been exposed to real-world experience. AUT recognises this and caters for this industry need,” she says.

Relevant work experience is becoming increasingly important in the global business sphere, but it is this, paired with the opportunity to gain a placement overseas, that makes the Co-operative Education programme truly unparalleled.

Students are able to undertake the project with an organisation of their choice, crossing oceans and borders to gain a unique global perspective. Of course, New Zealand presents a wealth of opportunity within its own exciting economy, but an abundance of former students have completed the project with companies in countries like Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the UK and the USA.

“Globalisation and technological advancement have led to a significant increase in interaction across borders,” says Harim Lee, second-year student of AUT’s Bachelor of Business. “I think understanding the international environment is important, not only as a business student, but also as a global citizen.”

Students who wish to venture on a placement overseas receive outstanding support from AIESEC New Zealand, a platform that connects the global leaders of industry with the most talented business students. The organisation provides a network for developing leadership, and supports students with the logistics involved in finding the overseas placements most suited to them and their future ambitions.

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Throughout the project, students are mentored by a workplace supervisor and a highly-qualified academic from within the institution. Students are encouraged to start looking for a placement from the very first day, and the School hosts helpful information sessions, on top of valuable networking events, inviting a broad range of potential employers from an extensive catalogue of connections to ensure all students are given the best chance to succeed.

“Guest lectures from industry experts, field trips and industry experience placements are all part of the AUT business degree,” says Skye Turner. “It helps you gain insight to how the theory applies in a real-world environment.

“With exposure to a wider range of business aspects, I feel I’m more attractive to future employers and my career opportunities are more varied.”

Employers value the fresh ideas and global, innovative thinking that AUT graduates bring to the workforce as a result of the Co-operative programme, with some offering full-time employment before they even graduate. The applicable real-world experience and international outlook gained as a result of this unique provision are part of what makes its graduates among the most employable in the competitive business world.

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This article was sponsored by Auckland University of Technology. AUT Business School tutors over 5,000 young business people and innovative entrepreneurs, making it one of the largest providers of business education in the whole of New Zealand. The school is located in the heart of Auckland City, voted 18th equal in the QS Best Student City Ranking for 2014, and is internationally renowned for the high quality of its graduates, the positive impact of its research and meaningful engagements with business and the broader community. AUT’s Business School fosters a teaching and learning approach that’s at the forefront of business education, with strong links with industry and professional bodies that ensure the curriculum remains current and reflects the contemporary needs of business.

Pictures via Auckland University of Technology and Shutterstock