West Sydney University solving real business problems

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Imagine having local university students involved with solving real business problems with local businesses. This is exactly what Western Sydney University (WSU) is doing.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Dr Michelle Cull, Director of Academic Programs – Accounting at WSU. She proudly told me of the collaboration between the university and local businesses, and how students and businesses alike are benefitting.

Strategic alliances

Late in 2017 Campbelltown Chamber of Commerce approached WSU to present to a chamber dinner meeting. Michelle eagerly accepted the invitation saying ‘We have students in the local community and we want to work with local businesses’.

A strong relationship quickly formed, a perfect fit with Campbelltown City planning a medical and educational precinct. Michelle added, ‘We now have a strategic alliance between the Campbelltown Council, Campbelltown Chamber and the University as well as the TAFE as an educational precinct’.

Part of the new relationship will see students present their work to Campbelltown chamber. This will give interesting insights and learning to the chamber membership, as well as awards and valuable experience for the students. Michelle pointed out ‘Students must attend a number of networking events such as chamber and are expected to attend at least two events’.

Working with businesses

Michelle explained she often thought ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could connect more with local businesses, they could benefit from the student’s skillset, but also give our students some “real world” experience’. Some study units have now been reviewed. ‘We have looked at re designing study units to benefit local businesses through the work students can do with them’.

Students are providing real benefits to local businesses. ‘Students can go out as if they are a consultant and help solve problems, and they are supervised by fully qualified accountants’. The businesses involved are given solutions to their problem. ‘The students work in teams, there may be a number of teams working on one project. We invite the business to come and listen to the presentations, and of course they receive a document at the end like a business plan and give feedback to the students’.

Real world projects

Examples from text books sometimes provide limited value for students, so the opportunity to work with local

businesses is invaluable. ‘Students are currently working on a real project with the Campbelltown Steam and Machinery Museum, they are helping the museum put together a business plan’. Michelle explained ‘It has been very good for the students, it has been eye opening and broadening their minds to see what other ways they can apply their skills’.

Recently the students worked with Phil Clifford from EmbriodMe Macarthur and Jarod O’Brien from Ausure Insurance Brokers Macarthur to create a fashion parade at a chamber meeting. The parade highlighted uniforms and safety equipment across a range of industries, along with insurance advice specific to those industries. This was an “out of the square” thinking presentation that gave great value to the students, the businesses directly involved and all chamber members and guests on the night.

New technologies and communication

Michelle pointed out it is easy for business people to fall behind with technology. ‘There are a lot of established businesses struggling with new technology. Having young students coming through the system that are good at using technology, they are able to assist in those areas’.

The students also gain from this interaction. ‘The way technology has changed, the students do a lot of their work online, a lot of their communication is online, and then suddenly they are going to be in the work place where they are going to have to communicate in person. We want to ensure that when a student graduates with a Western Sydney University degree that they have these skills. It is win-win because the students are gaining those skills and feedback on their skills, while the businesses are having problems solved’.

Moving Macarthur forward

Michelle points out that these relationships are good for the whole region, ‘I am finding that there are some commonalities between what the students think should be in businesses, and what businesses feel they are lacking, we are trying to close that gap. Macarthur is growing very rapidly, and I feel that is why businesses do need a lot of help. It is not just the population but also the demand for their businesses and how they are going to cope with that’.

It’s wonderful to see the divide between higher education and business being bridged. If you would like more information on how your business can be involved contact Michelle Cull at m.cull@westernsydney.edu.au, or by phone on 02 4620 3519. For more information about WSU and the courses offered see www.westernsydney.edu.au.

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Rolf Fuchs
Rolf has lived in the Campbelltown area for nearly 30 years and has raised his family here with his wife Karen. Being passionate for his local community Rolf has served on local boards such as Disability Macarthur and Campbelltown Chamber of Commerce. Having a strong interest in communication Rolf is also a veteran member of local Toastmasters Clubs. This also led to Rolf writing articles for Smarter Macarthur magazine, to be able to research and report on local news events not only involving the local business community but the also the greater Macarthur region community. Rolf is also a member of the Good Morning Macarthur team reporting the many great initiatives and events happening in Macarthur. After many years in the IT industry Rolf retrained as a Life Coach. His passion has always been to help people, he is now able to help people gain new direction, skills and confidence enabling them to achieve things they may never have thought possible. Rolf was also co-chair of the inaugural Macarthur Multicultural Children’s Festival in 2018, which was an outstanding success.

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