And the winner was…

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					And the winner was…..

  Developing Professionals:
   Experiences of Student
Technical Specialist Volunteers
   at the Sydney Olympics
      Alanah Kazlauskas and Pamela Gibbons
          Australian Catholic University
Some background
• Reliable information and communication
  technology is critical to the successful staging of an
  Olympic Games

• 40000 volunteers including Technical Specialist
  Volunteers (TSVs) were recruited for the Sydney
  Olympic Games

• SOCOG recruited undergraduate IT students from
  universities to be part of this volunteer workforce

This pilot study
• investigated the experiences of a group of
  student TSVs in Sydney’s Olympic Games

• raises further questions about the industry
  experience components of undergraduate IT

The researchers
• surveyed former student TSVs soon after the
  Games (Oct/Nov, 2000)

• reviewed student presentations about their
  experience (November, 2000)

• analysed student reports of their TSV

The survey asked about
• why the student chose to be a TSV
• the type of work performed
• the best and worst aspects of being a TSV
• impact upon professional development
  – immediate benefits
  – long term benefits
  – “soft” skills

• the relationship of the experience to coursework
• the value of the student’s work to the employer
Why did the students choose to
          be TSVs?

Students chose to be TSVs because they wanted….

   "involvement with the Olympic/Paralympic games"

   "supporting the Sydney Olympic Games"

   "to contribute to Australia and the Olympics"

   "to be a part of a great event and it was once in a
     lifetime opportunity"

Students chose to be TSVs because they wanted….

”help with my course"
"credit for my industry experience"
"to acquire valuable skills”
"to expand my IT experience"
"to learn how the IT industry operates on a huge scale"
“to prepare me for the real world”
“the reference...”
"to get friends"
“to make contacts"
"to take a break from going to classes each day "
What type of work did the students
  perform in their TSV roles?

Student TSVs
• worked for between 9 and 60 days

• were given
  – a general orientation to their volunteer workplace

  – specific role training

• may have worked in
  – Help Desk, hardware and network support or
    process testing roles

  – more than one role

What were the best aspects of
      being a TSV?

Students liked

                    Meeting people and sharing a
 • meeting people   “once in a lifetime experience”

                    “being able to talk to different
                    co-workers in the industry about
                    their chosen career path and
                    there experiences”

Students liked
                               “being able to work with others in a
                               friendly environment”

                               “understanding how things are run in
• meeting people               large project like the Olympics”
• the opportunity to develop
                             “I learnt how to be a part of a big
  such “soft skills” as
   – teamwork skills
   – communication skills    “I learnt how to deal with difficult

                               “how to interact with the supervisor or
                               to my colleagues”

Students liked

 • meeting people
 • the opportunity to develop
   such “soft skills” as        “Getting out and about”
    – teamwork skills           “Having fun while working”
    – communication skills

 • being part of the
   Olympic “buzz”

Students liked

 • meeting people               “I know some ideas of how the job
 • the opportunity to develop   will be”
   such “soft skills” as
                                “It definitely gave me a good insight
    – teamwork skills           into the IT industry and large
    – communication skills      corporations”

 • being part of the            “Seeing what the real world was like”
   Olympic “buzz”
                                “Appreciating the University life
 • learning about               much more”
   working in IT

What were the worst aspects of
       being a TSV?

Students did not like

                        “Not very busy at times”
 • the boredom
                        “A lot of time was spent sitting

                        “The tasks performed can be very

                        “I found that when there was not
                        much to do it could get a bit boring
                        at times”

Students did not like

                            “Tasks mainly were consisting
 • the boredom              of data entry”

 • the nature of the work   “I also did not get a proper
                            'hands on' experience of the
                            network as I would of liked”

Students did not like

                            “Time wasn't enough!”
 • the boredom
 • the nature of the work   “Just as you were getting to
                            know the people and the
 • the brevity of the       routines of the organisation, the
   experience               period of work experience
                            would end.”

Students did not like

  • the boredom              “Most of the jobs that needed to
                             be done were performed by the
  • the nature of the work   IBM people. So I didn't get to
  • the brevity of the       learn as much”
                             “We didn't get much
  • being the lackeys!       opportunity to deal with more
                             complex tasks”

Students did not like

                             “No pay and very bad food and
                             catering services from the
                             (catering) company”

  • the boredom              “Working in difficult weather
                             conditions ie in a tent through
  • the nature of the work   cold temperatures without any
  • the brevity of the       heating”
                             “Having to work for free!”
  • being the lackeys!
                             “Dealing with very rude
  • the conditions           people.”

                             “Not being able to watch the
                             games during your shift!!!!”
 What did students see as the
immediate benefits of being a

Students felt they had benefited from

 simply being a TSV          “Enjoyed working as a

                              “Pride in being part of
                              this event”

Students felt they had benefited from

 simply being a TSV

 completing university       “Assisting with my
  assessment tasks            industry placement

Students felt they had benefited from

 simply being a TSV

 completing university assessment   "Better knowledge of
  tasks                              networks”

 making links between their         “Getting on hand study-
  experience and course content      related experience.”

Students felt they had benefited from
 Simply being a TSV

                                     “Gaining experience in IT
 completing university assessment   helpdesk and technical
  tasks                              support fields”
 making links between their         “the practical experience
  experience and course content      and the training given by
 the IT experience they had         IBM Australia”
                                     “Know how a network
                                     operates and how to check
                                     for different problems”

Students felt they had benefited from
 simply being a TSV                  “The immediate benefits
                                      would be that I have a
                                      better understanding of
 completing university assessment    the IT workplace.”
                                      “I got an idea of being in
 making links between their
                                      the workplace such as
  experience and course content
                                      how to interact with my
 the IT experience they had gained   colleagues and my
 having a better understanding of
  the IT workplace                    “Work experience does
                                      give you an insight into
                                      the workings of the IT
Students felt they had benefited from
                                      “Gaining friends and
 simply being a TSV                  professional contacts”

                                      “The contacts you make
 completing university assessment    can be invaluable.”
                                      “Interacting with
 making links between their          different specialists, such
  experience and course content       as engineers,
                                      programmers, etc.”
 the IT experience they had gained
                                      “Definitely the meeting
 making new friendships and          of contacts in the IT
  professional contacts               industry and the
                                      procedures that large
                                      companies such as IBM
                                      undertake.”                   28
Students felt they had benefited from
 simply being a TSV
                                       “Working on the Olympic
                                       project means working in
 completing university assessment     big teams and this greatly
  tasks                                helps your communications
 making links between their           skills and confidence.”
  experience and course content
                                       “Helped me become a more
 the IT experience they had gained    confident person in this
                                       industry as I have a bit of
 making new friendships and           experience behind me”
  professional contacts
 gaining confidence in their own
  IT related abilities and improving
  their communications skills
What short term benefits did the
   students hope to gain?

Students hoped to

 gain credit for their   “Able to claim exemption for
  current course          university subjects”

                          “Help me with my current course”

Students hoped to
                                  “That I will be able to relate my
                                  industry experience to my university
                                  work and hopefully everything will
 gain credit for their current   come together and make more
  course                          sense.”
 make linkages between           “Now when I do a subject at
  their experience and their      university I hopefully won't
  course                          question as much as to what good
                                  this will do us in the real world.”

                                  “I hope that I can relate my
                                  theoretical studies to what I learnt
                                  during the practical experience as a
Students hoped to

                                “Assist in finding casual
 gain credit for their current employment in the IT section”
                                “Probably I can do another help
 make linkages between         desk job for another company
  their experience and their because I have experience from this
  course                        job”

 gain employment as a         “Using TSV experience to gain
  result of their experience   employment”

What long term benefits did
 students hope to gain?

In the long term, students hoped to

 receive recognition of   “Recognition of my participation
  involvement in the       at the Olympic Games in the IT
  Olympic Games            area”

In the long term, students hoped to
                                 “Help me to decide which aspect
                                 of the IT industry I want to be
 receive recognition of their   involved with. “
  involvement in the Olympic
  Games                          “Assist in building a confident IT
 develop a better               background for my career after
  understanding of the IT        university studies.”
                                 “Increase knowledge in the IT

                                 “For long term I don't hope much
                                 from my help disk experience
                                 because in future probably I don't
                                 want to apply a job as help desk
                                 person”                              36
In the long term, students hoped to

                                 “A fulfilling (IT) career”
 receive recognition of their
  involvement in the Olympic     “I hope that the long term benefit
  Games                          will be that I get a job when I finish
                                 Uni. Hopefully the TSV experience
 develop a better               will be an advantage compared to
  understanding of the IT        others who have not done any sort of
  workplace                      work experience.”
 improve their employment
  prospects                      “To keep all the contacts I've made
                                 and find employment with one of

 How did students perceive their
professional development to have
   been affected by their TSV

Students felt that they had

   • learnt about IT     “I learnt more in the two
                         training days than working at
                         the actual events.”

                         “I have also learned a lot of
                         technical skills.”

                         “Sort of, because we do get
                         training for whatever we have
                         to do in the Olympics.”

Students felt that they had
                         “I learnt how to deal with difficult
                         situations and try to help users when
                         they need technical advice. “
 • learnt about IT
                         “It has given me an insight into what the
 • learnt about the IT   jobs are like in the IT industry”
                         "My TSV experience has enabled me to
                         gain knowledge in roles such as process
                         tester, quality control as well as help
                         desk operator”

                         “Developing ideas to new systems and

                         “Do the task/job regularly and do it
Students felt that they had

 • learnt about IT

 • learnt about the IT      “The fact that I can now say I have
   workplace                done work experience with IBM at
                            the Olympics greatly boosts my
 • applied their existing   opportunity of finding suitable
   knowledge                employment.”
 • gained experience        “I now have some experience under
                            my belt.”

                            “Given some hands on experience.”

 How did students perceive the
TSV experience to have effected
      their „soft skills‟?

Students rated their TSV experiences as facilitating
   • considerable improvement in their ability to communicate

   • significant improvement in their
      – ability to negotiate with coworkers and with supervisors
      – thinking/decision-making skills and their problem solving skills

   • improvement of their
      – personal organisation, resourcefulness and versatility
      – knowledge of the IT workplace
      – ability to make links between their experience and their coursework

   • no significant benefit to their written communication skills

Students rated their TSV
• experiences as having the greatest impact of the
  experience to be upon their ability to cooperate with
  others and their teamwork skills

• activities as being of importance and value to their
  employer, whether working on helpdesk/ user support, as
  Hardware/Network support, or in Systems Analysis

This pilot study suggests that participants

 • had a positive experiences as TSVs

 • have a greater appreciation of the importance
   of “soft skills”

 • were able make new connections between their
   coursework studies and the IT workplace

 • see worthwhile industry experience as critical
   for their employment prospects

       Two other students comments….

“Industry experience is a very important part of the
University Course and everyone should do it.
“The problem with Industry Experience is that it can be
inconsistent, some people may get good employers to
work with while others will get employers who don't care
and can be relegated to performing mundane tasks such
as data entry.”


   “Some people are often frustrated (in their
   attempts) to find paid work because employers
   are looking for people with experience. Of
   course to gain experience, people must work.”

This pilot study raises further questions about ...

• the attributes of an effective workplace experience for IT
  undergraduates and the providers

• current industry experience programs used by Australian
  tertiary institutions for IT undergraduates

• the effects of workplace experience in the IT field on the
  students' learning, providers, the university - course
  development, the IT industry

• the effects of the provision of workplace experience
  opportunities for IT undergraduates on the provider, on the
  student, on the university/program/course, the profession

Answers to these questions will assist

• the professional development of IT

• universities to improve the IT undergraduate

• the IT industry to provide mutually beneficial
  experiences for undergraduates

• the IT industry by providing it with
  experienced new graduates
Alanah Kazlauskas and Pamela Gibbons
    Australian Catholic University


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