The one certainty about the workplace of the future is that it won’t stand still. As we worship at the new shrines of strategy, technology, sustainability and diversity, most likely in a shape-shifting office, the employee of the 21st century will need to be hard-wired for change.
Macquarie University meets this challenge with PACE (Professional and Community Engagement), a program that trains students to be nimble, ensuring they hone their problem-solving, critical thinking, cultural competence and creativity, with an eye firmly on employability.
PACE aims to produce engaged and active employees who can problem-solve and grapple with the ethics and complexities of the workplace, in the process expanding career opportunities and social networks and developing cross-cultural competencies. Above all, PACE boosts a graduate’s confidence in his or her abilities.
Professor Dominique Parrish, Office of the Pro Vice Chancellor (Learning and Teaching), which oversees PACE, says, “for a long time there was a disconnect between knowing the thinking and theories of a discipline and its application in the workplace.”
The pool of partners in students’ pursuit of industry expertise number 3000 companies, in Australia and overseas, of various scope, scale and diversity. Corporations, government, non-government, education, and community sectors offer internships, field trips, overseas placements, mentoring and peer-assisted research.
Students have the opportunity to explore areas of interest such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, marine biology, sexual health, data analytics, cybersecurity, social media marketing and humanitarian initiatives.
“They actually build a toolkit,” says Professor Parrish. “The units they study, mostly in their final, capstone, year, are underpinned by reciprocity and reflective practice, which tap into the psychology of the modern office.
“It’s crucial that students think deeply about what they experience during their engagement with partners to look at the reactions, behaviours, situations, or office dynamics, and consider ways things might have been done differently. For example, what would the outcome have been if someone had not raised their voice, kept calmer, listened more, asked more questions?
“So the next time students are in a similar situation, they can draw on the strategies they have built to deal with the present circumstance.”