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Tackling Indigenous Disadvantage Through Internships

Rowan didn’t always want to be a software engineer. In fact, he had planned to study physics and astronomy when he started university. As a teen, he spent many hours behind a computer screen, where he became more and more curious as to how software worked, and the impact that technology could have on the world.

When a friend told him that they were creating their own mobile application, he was inspired to take a programming course. There he discovered a great passion for problem-solving and innovation. Today, he is one of eight university students who has interned with ThoughtWorks as part of the CareerTrackers Indigenous Internship Program.

CareerTrackers is a non-profit organization that seeks equality for Australia’s First Nations People. Leveraging the work undertaken by the INROADS African-American internship program in the United States, founder Michael Combs set out to tackle a very real social issue here in Australia: Indigenous Disadvantage.

CareerTrackers matches students with organizations who provide real work experience during university holidays. Through accessing internships, students are able to develop employment skills and leadership in a professional environment. This invaluable experience helps create a career pathway for students who, historically, have encountered less opportunity than their non-indigenous peers.

The program seeks to address common challenges including financial barriers to attending university (through paid internships), and access to a dedicated student advisor who helps students navigate the intricacies of the higher education system. Around 46% of CareerTrackers students are the first in their families to attend university, so this support is crucial to their success.
 

"I was one of the first on my father's side of the family to attend university so I feel like having strong role models like my mum kept me going, in addition to tutors who've helped my studies and the ThoughtWorkers I've been lucky enough to work with.” - Rowan Malamoo

As well as guiding students through their internships, CareerTrackers also supports students to excel in their studies. 90% of CareerTrackers interns go on to graduate, compared to just 47% of indigenous students who are not part of the program, and 70% of non-Indigenous students.

Career Trackers Award Ceremony

With a partnership spanning four years, ThoughtWorks Australia is one of the few technology consultancies working with CareerTrackers. ThoughtWorks creates paid opportunities for three to four interns at any one time, and have recently welcomed two of our final-year interns into permanent graduate positions.

Our work is project based, and typically on the client site, which presents the challenge of identifying safe, yet valuable work environments in which to place someone with little experience. Interns typically begin on an internal ThoughtWorks project, giving them a feel for how a delivery team collaborates and our ways of working. Failing fast is encouraged as a means to learn, and our culture of constant feedback provides supportive opportunities for fast growth.

Next, students are placed with senior ThoughtWorkers on a client site, and exposed to a range of technologies and techniques, as well as developing the soft skills required for a career in consultancy.

More recently, we explored how we might develop a more meaningful technology partnership with CareerTrackers, working with them to solve one of their biggest internal business challenges.

Manually managing communications between students and advisors is an arduous task that requires keeping track of important paperwork. CareerTrackers wanted to create an easy way to maintain a two-way dialogue and share materials.

A ThoughtWorks delivery team worked closely with CareerTrackers stakeholders to create a mobile application that could address these pain points. Interns are now able to submit forms and weekly updates to their student advisors, as well as receive invitations and reminders for important meetings and events. Rowan worked on the project, placing him in the interesting position of being both an end customer of the product, and a developer on the team delivering the solution.

Mobile App

“Undertaking an internship with ThoughtWorks has given me the opportunity to accelerate my career as a developer. It was great to see my peers actually using an application I worked on.” - Rowan Malamoo

ThoughtWorks was delighted to receive a company award from CareerTrackers at their last annual gala dinner, for the improvements we have made to their digital assets.

Award

“The new mobile app saves us so much admin time. We can easily communicate with our students, and proactively provide the support they need .” - Lily Brouwer-French, Student Advisor