Dr Alexandre Mendes: Helping students to network in a clever way, with people that matter
Dr Alexandre Mendes has been awarded the Work Integrated Learning Staff Member of the Year in recognition of his efforts in creating innovative change within the Computer Science and Information Technology Work Integrated Learning course structure, generating meaningful work experience opportunities for an increased number of students and equipping them with skills required for the workplace.
This prestigious award identifies staff that are going the extra mile to secure high quality and relevant workplace opportunities that increase the employability level of their students, which has been echoed loudly in positive feedback and nominations for Alex to be recognised, from peers and industry partners.
Having been a Work Integrated Learning Coordinator for Computer Science and Information Technology students for the past four years, Alex understands the specific skills employers look for and has successfully adapted the course accordingly in the last couple of years to accommodate and provide progressive opportunities for around 100 students per year.
Fellow faculty members nominated Alex to receive this accolade for being proactive in redesigning the Work Integrated Learning course with the employability of his students being front of mind, while accommodating the merging of Computer Science and Information Technology students under the same discipline to create COMP3851A/B. “A huge effort that’s nice to be recognised for”, Alex said.
The restructure of the capstone Work Integrated Learning course saw it expand from one semester to two - a necessary action to ensure the industry program remained relevant to all students studying various progression pathways. Adjusting the course allowed for the inclusion of more lectures and workshops on topics such as professional communication, ethics and entrepreneurship, among others, in addition to increasing the number of placement hours from 100 to 200.
Industry partners have also praised Alex for his efforts - satisfied with the level of commitment and professionalism of the students they are taking on.
Alex has grown a healthy database of industry connections over the past 10 years, which has allowed students to secure an invaluable Work Integrated Learning project this year. Knowing exactly what companies look for when employing graduates, Alex exposes students to professional and industry bodies through workshops and lecturers during the semesters, teaching them “how to network in a clever way, with people that matter”.
“It’s extremely important for students to gain industry experience. It gives them an opportunity to step outside the classroom and deliver something that’s valuable to a company”.
“The industry expects a different attitude towards work compared with what students have towards assignments. Students work towards getting good grades; however industry wants results”, Alex said.
Utilising his connections within the Computing and IT External Advisory Board, companies and professional societies like Newy Tech People and Newcastle Coders Group, Alex understands that “relationships with industry are very important”, and creates opportunities for his students to be exposed to the latest technological trends in the industry.
Within the Work Integrated Learning course, Alex also leans on connections within the University of Newcastle, such as Career Services and I2N, to help give students expert advice on professional skills like CV development, professional digital footprint, presentation skills and communicating on different levels. “You don’t want to be invisible, when industry expects the opposite”, Alex concludes.
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