Information for employers

We have students completing either a three year Computer Science or a four year Engineering degree where our industry focused engineering content is tailored to the IT workplace. Our students are keen to gain work experience and past employers talk highly of the calibre of IT interns from the School of Engineering and Computer Science.

The four year Engineering degree can be thought of as a 3 year Computer Science degree plus. The plus involves significant improvements in soft skills, autonomy, innovation, professionalism (not the suit wearing kind) and the experience of seeing two substantial 8 month projects through to the finish, including a substantial report. Engineering graduates are well positioned to learn fast, participate in teams, complete substantial tasks and have the potential to rapidly step into consulting and junior leadership roles.

The Bachelor of Engineering degree, has four majors;

  • Cyber Security,
  • Electronics and Computer Systems,
  • Network Engineering (closed to new enrolments) and
  • Software Engineering.

Computer Science is a major within the highly flexible Science degree. This flexibility means computer science students may choose to work toward completing a second major within their degree (a double major), for example in; commerce, psychology, math, history, biology.

Within the five majors offered, students may also specialise in Artificial Intelligence, Computer Graphics and Networked Applications.

Both the IT industry and representative bodies (Engineering NZ, ITP and central government) are very clear about needing work ready graduates, graduates that can integrate easily into the IT workplace. Consequently we require our engineering students to accumulate 800 hours of work experience where we have them focus on developing their soft skills while they apply technical theory in the workplace.

Work experience usually takes place over two summer breaks. This gives industry employers opportunity to engage with our students with a view to spotting talent and increasing student awareness of your brand. Plus you get the warm fuzzy stuff that comes from giving back to your local and growing IT community.

Suitable professional work in IT

Students should be offered work within an IT workplace, applying their IT degree and under suitable industry supervision.

Working remotely offers considerably less opportunity to develop soft skills in the IT workplace and is discouraged. The work should stretch students and allow the development of technical skills in the workplace, for example, data entry roles do not stretch students with technical skills. Learning from experienced peers in the workplace is a core skill and ideally the intern is co-located with an experienced team.

In short, the best outcomes are typically from embedding students inside existing IT teams.

Students typically begin work experience after their second or third year and may choose to continue to work part time during the year. The 800 hours required is often made up of more than one placement .

Pay rates

Interns are typically paid in the range of $19 – $32 per hour (Summer of Tech, summer 2018/19, mean $23.43), depending on the work offered and student experience. We expect interns to be offered fixed-term employment contracts which will also address common concerns around ownership of intellectual property and non-disclosure.

In the not-for-profit sector, if the work is IT related, on your premises and supervised, we will generally consider it equivalent to industry work experience.

Without an employment contract and pay, interns by default own any copyright and IP they create (for example, see Copyright Act 2013, section 21). This may muddy the waters on who owns ‘your’ IP. Please talk to us about what this means and expect that you should also seek independent legal advice. Of course our preference is that you pay students rather than lawyers.

Student expectations

To be treated as an employee. To have an induction and H&S brief, and be given meaningful work under supportive supervision.

To be assigned a mentor. The role of the mentor is to provide unofficial support, answering the ‘dumb’ questions all new staff have, chatting about the realities of industry work, introducing them to others in the company and sharing their observations on career enhancement. Note that a mentor might be an experienced co-worker, someone from HR or accounts with tremendous soft skills or the company CEO. This role can be seen as a growth opportunity for existing staff.

To be supported in achieving learning goals. Typically this is learning your core technology plus two or three soft skills. These are set by the student and will form the foundation of their expected academic outcomes. Supporting the student means finding opportunities for students to apply these skills and offering encouragement and guidance if or when the outcomes are disappointing. Example opportunities might include leading end of sprint presentations, engaging directly with customers to scope solutions or organising a staff lunch event.

Academic expectations

To have periodic access to the student. We are required to fulfil pastoral care obligations and may undertake fortnightly half-hour meetings.

That employers empower students to write a report. Students write a reflective report on their work experience that should demonstrate personal growth in achieving learning goals. The students learning goals and daily journal should assist with this.

Students often sign NDAs as part of their employment. This can be quite scary for students who then need to differentiate between knowledge in the public domain (eg: taught material) and proprietary knowledge. This is not straight forward. If you think the work (and subsequent report) may cross a boundary, discuss it early. If necessary and in recognition of the potential stress created by two reporting channels, get the course coordinator involved. Rest assured we deal with this often and have no interest in company secrets.

About our students

Our students may elect to complete either a Computer Science (3 years) or Engineering (4 years) degree. Our Engineering degree is popular in part because we specialise in IT. There is no requirement for our students to learn unrelated topics aimed at general engineering disciplines. Instead it builds on our popular Computer Science degree and adds engineering aspects designed to be relevant in the IT workplace.

Both degrees lay foundations in:

  • programming and computer science
  • electronic engineering
  • engineering fundamentals
  • mathematics
  • statistics

The BE degree also adds

  • project and risk management
  • two substantial 8 month projects from specification to delivery
  • many team based projects
  • work experience applying technical theory and developing soft skills
  • honours level (4th year) computer science subjects

At the end of their second year, students will have a broad practical perspective in computer science. By the end of their third year, students will have undertaken advanced computer science papers. The engineering students will have also undertaken seven or more group projects as well as applying project management theory to a substantial 8 month group project.

The process

In the first instance contact either the Work Experience Coordinator or our work experience partner Summer of Tech. We will talk you through the various options, help set your expectations of students and facilitate opportunities for you to engage direct with our students.

Engaging with students

There are multiple ways to engage with our students:

  • Summer of Tech – industry led student engagement programme leading to internships
  • Summer of Tech – facilitates industry talks bi-weekly hosted in our Kelburn campus
  • Careers and Employment – job advertising targeted at students and recent graduates
  • Careers and Employment – bi-annual recruiting fairs
  • Be a Product Owner for 1 or 2 trimester student projects
  • Offer a student scholarship (typically $5000 awarded to top students)
  • Be an expert guest lecturer supporting course content
  • Industry lectures presenting technologies or concepts (Google and Weta do this)
  • Host a Wellington IT Meetup {link: https://www.meetup.com}

Engaging with us

Please contact the Work Experience Coordinator via email at: be-work@ecs.vuw.ac.nz