Doing things differently: Championing the “frontier mentality”

Edtech innovation

“We here are the group that is going headfirst, hurtling into the future”, says Lucinda Crossley Meates, Careers Service Manager at The University of Sydney Business School.

She’s explaining how much she values being a member of the QS-Wharton Reimagine Education community of world-leading innovators in education. 

It’s 12 months since her team won not only the Nurturing Employability Gold Award at the 2020 QS-Wharton Reimagine Education Conference and Awards but also the overall Global Award and $25,000 in funding.

The winning project was Job Smart, the Business School’s student experience and employability skills programme, which consists of skill-building activities, corporate networking and genuine workplace projects with Australian employers. The programme is delivered on a customised, mobile-first, gamified education technology platform. 

This week, she reflects on what it means to win the award and what developments her and her team have been working on during 2021: 

What did winning the award mean to you? 

“We’ve tried to benchmark our programme over the years but we haven’t had a lot of success. There’s not a lot out there in the employability domain that is running successfully in the long-term and at scale. Winning the award for us – particularly from the calibre of the QS committee that looks into thousands of applications – was absolute validation to us that we are a world-class offering and there’s nothing else in our peer group that offers what we do.  

“It was fantastic and really meaningful to get that external validation of not just all the hard work of my team but also our partners that we work really closely with, for example our tech partner, Practera, and – last but not least – the hard work of the students who participate every round.” 

What difference has the funding made? 

“Over the last two years, as with universities around the world, we are experiencing budget cuts, cancellations, delays, pauses and that’s our norm, as we all struggle with the operational challenges. But, for us, that funding allowed us to focus on designing what it is that is going to take our programme into the future. What are the next generation of enhancements and capabilities, particularly on the technology front with our partners at Practera? 

“It’s not just to keep students engaged but also to give them the most authentic experience possible and really change their lives, change who they are, add skillsets, add different thinking styles and change their life goals along the way. We believe we’ve done that and the funding was instrumental in really being able to power that. We still feel incredibly grateful to QS and the committee that chose to not just back us financially but also champion that cutting edge, that be at the frontier mentality that it takes to really do something that stands out.” 

What difference has the pandemic made for engagement with the programme? 

“For us, we’ve always embraced technology so to pivot everything 100% online because of COVID wasn’t such a big problem for us. Where we had to put our effort was into taking the employability skills development component and turning it from something which is relatively run-of-the-mill and can be pulled off the shelf and turn it into something as authentic and powerful as it could possibly be. So that for us is where we put out creative efforts with COVID and that for us is what has landed with the students the most.  They have seen the value and they’re voting with their feet. Our engagement has actually grown during the pandemic.  They know a quality offering when they see one and they are telling their friends and they’re coming towards what we do, which we’re really proud of and we’re feeling very validated in our efforts to keep doing what we’re doing.” 

Does she have a message for this year’s winners, who will be revealed at Reimagine Education next week?  

“From me and from my team at Job Smart and the Business School, I wish to share with the 2021 winners a heartfelt congratulations. We can’t thank the QS community enough. Make the most of this moment, live it over and over again and don’t stop innovating. We here are the group that is going headfirst, hurtling into the future – so to do it together makes a big difference to our capability so let’s strengthen this community and keep up the great work.” 

 

This year’s QS-Wharton Reimagine Education Conference and Awards took place from 6-10 December 2021. There is still a chance to register and attend the sessions, which will be available on demand until 31 January 2022. 

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