31 January 2018: When Phil Trenbath recalls his time studying at the University of Canberra over a decade ago, he laments a lack of practical work experience opportunities.
Unlike today, when the University is making work experience a requirement for every degree, internships were not an integral component of many students’ coursework when Mr Trenbath graduated with a Bachelor of Communication in Advertising and Marketing in 2007.
“Looking back, [internships] would have provided me with a greater range of opportunities,” Mr Trenbath admitted.
Fast forward 11 years and Mr Trenbath, now a partner at Canberra marketing firm The Mark Agency, is providing students with the opportunities he wished he had.
For the past five years, The Mark Agency has been helping shape the careers of University of Canberra students through an internship arrangement Mr Trenbath describes as mutually beneficial.
The agency, which counts Super Rugby franchise the ACT Brumbies and popular night spot Hopscotch among its clients, accepts on average 10 students each year from a variety of disciplines.
The internships last 100 hours and the work is varied. Students, depending on their skillset, undertake tasks relating to marketing (content and digital), social media, graphic design, and writing.
“It’s win-win,” Mr Trenbath said. “Students come to us and are able to put their classroom learning into action. In turn, the agency benefits from energetic individuals with fresh perspectives.”
Mr Trenbath said the agency generally accepted “any student who expresses interest” in gaining on-the-job experience, a policy that yielded huge success last year.
Three of the 10 students who completed internships in 2017 secured ongoing positions. Daniel Francis (marketing), Jess Lilley (communications) and Sarah McInnes (graphic design) excelled in their “extended job interview”, Mr Trenbath said.
“Daniel, Jess and Sarah stood out in the way they approached the internship. They expressed a strong desire to take the internship seriously and treated it as an extended job interview.
“Since starting in their new roles late last year, they have become integral team members and are all extremely talented young staff.”
For Mr Trenbath, who counts several other University of Canberra alumni among his colleagues, the success of the program in 2017 reinforces the importance of integrating practical work experience with university degrees.
“Not undertaking an internship when I studied meant the nature of work in the industry was largely a mystery when I graduated and I had no idea what kind of role would suit me,” he said. “It felt like there was a disconnection between the classroom and the real world.
“By offering internships to current students, we hope to give them insight into what a working week entails, the different pathways their career can take and, most importantly, how to best utilise their skillset.”
Mr Trenbath started his career the hard way, but he has some simple advice for those who want to get ahead.
“Internships are something you can take seriously and get a real head start or you can just go through the motions and do the bare minimum.”