COVID-19 has caused massive disruption this year, but for five students from The University of Western Australia, it was a great opportunity to learn about the state’s agrifood and fisheries sectors, researching how the pandemic affected both local food and beverage production and supply chains to key international markets.
Organised by UWA's Work Integrated Learning Placement Program and supervised by Jim Paparo, a Convocation of UWA Graduates Councillor and Principal Trade Consultant at the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), the second semester internships were mainly run remotely using online video teleconferencing.
With COVID-19 having had a major impact on Western Australia's $9 billion agrifood and fisheries exports, the interns learnt of the urgent need for exporters to diversify markets, build resilience, and develop strategies to get through and survive this and future economic crises.
Conducting largely desktop research taking in local, national and international case studies, they developed comprehensive reports detailing key success factors in mastering and surviving the shutdown, best ways out of the crisis, and how to minimise impact from future economic disruptions for WA agrifood and fisheries exporters.
Mr Paparo said internships provide invaluable real world work experience for students and he and his department welcomed the opportunity to mentor and support these UWA interns during what has been a very different academic year.
"Particularly as COVID-19 dramatically changed university teaching here and around the world – as well as disrupted normal workplace activities – it was great that these very enthusiastic students were still able to undertake these internships at this time," he said.
"They were not only required to quickly learn all about WA's world-class food and beverage sectors, but had to delve into the trade problems caused by the pandemic and consider ways through and beyond it."
L-R: Professor Andrew Williams; Shahad Aiez; Jim Paparo; Penelope Deveson; Jason Lianto; Ashton Godfrey; Lydia Abdelnour; Professor Phil Hancock
The interns were: Shahad Aiez, second year Bachelor of Arts (Law and Society, Criminology); Penelope Deveson, third year Bachelor of Arts (Political Science and International Relations); Ashton Godfrey, third year Bachelor of Commerce (Economics & Finance); Jason Lianto, third year Bachelor of Arts (Political Science & International Relations; Philosophy); and Lydia Abdelnour, final year Master of Economics (also supervised by Terry Burnage, a DPIRD Principal Business Development Manager).
Aside from direct and regular input from DPIRD officers, and briefings on the importance of the federal government’s International Freight Assistance Mechanism for many of WA's high value food exports, the interns had meetings with, and input from, a range of local and international stakeholders, including: Austral Fisheries, Margaret River Wine, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the WA Agent General (London), and Meat and Livestock Australia (Singapore).
The interns were also supported by UWA academic supervisors Professor Andrew Williams (Director of Education UWA Business School, Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Education), and Professor Phil Hancock (Associate Dean, Learning and Teaching, Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Education).
Each intern submitted a 5000-word report at the conclusion of the internship, and gave a presentation on their research at the UWA Business School to their DPIRD and UWA supervisors, with numerous people taking part online from as far away as London.
UWA graduates and others interested in taking on interns in 2021 should contact the UWA Work Integrated Learning Placement Program at [email protected].