In 2018, the South Australian Premier Steven Marshall announced funding for a new program that would connect South Australia’s three major higher education providers (Flinders University, the University of Adelaide, and the University of South Australia) with companies in the State’s defence industry to enhance local research and development, project capabilities and grow the high-skilled workforce needed to deliver the billions of dollars’ worth of defence projects underway in South Australia.

The South Australian Premier’s Defence Industry Scholarships Program has placed over 20 university students with over a dozen host companies in South Australia’s defence industry over the past 18 months. Explored below are some of the benefits of university-industry partnerships based on work-integrated learning practices used in industry placements for higher education students in the defence industry as a result of the program.

The information has been collected from students once they have completed their placement.

Student feedback on their industry placements

Students were asked to rate the extent to which they were able to develop existing skills during their placement. All students who have completed their placement said they were able to develop their technical skills as part of their placement (60% Excellent; 40% Good).

Ninety per cent of students said they were able to develop their problem solving and creative and critical thinking skills, with 60 per cent reporting excellent outcomes and 40 per cent reporting good outcomes.

Communication skills, teamwork and collaboration both saw a positive response; however, 50 per cent rated their skills development as excellent and 40 per cent as good. In all categories, no student has reported a fair or poor outcome.

Ninety per cent of students reported that their placement allowed them to demonstrate/practice the knowledge and skills already attained through their university course.

industry placements chart 1

Every student gave positive feedback on their respective host company, with all students having a positive assessment on the support they received.

industry placements chart 2

The onboarding and induction each student received is rated as highly favourable, with a majority of students reporting their experience as excellent.

industry placements chart 3

Not a single student rated their overall experience of their placement in a negative way, with 100 per cent of students recommending their host company to other students thinking of applying for a placement with that company.

industry placements chart 4

Student feedback on their industry placement was overwhelmingly positive. Here is an example of what students have said:

  • “In general, it was a good experience full of challenges and learning experiences.”
  • "The support given by [the host company] allowed me to get comfortable quickly and begin working feeling like a real engineer.”
  • “I was able to work on things on my own, and had a hand in all parts of the design process. This has meant I have developed my skills faster than if I was given only parts of the task to do.”
  • “My experience was eye-opening, I have learnt many new things which expanded my knowledge base. I have also been offered a position which shows positive feedback to my performance on the placement.”
  • “It was a great opportunity to adapt and learn in a new environment and enhance learnings through a well-defined project.”
  • “I learnt so many useful skills and the experience boosted my professional growth tremendously.”
  • “The experiences I had during my internship… were extremely valuable. It has provided me with much experience into the real world of engineering outside of university. [I had] the opportunity to work on two very interesting defence industry projects, and I thoroughly enjoyed working with the robots. Following this internship, it has inspired me to further strive to develop a career in robotics and to look for the opportunities that the defence industry has to offer.”
  • “I was able to learn and experience working in a male-dominated field and being the only woman in the [department], I have gained confidence in dealing with engineers without being spoon-fed... There is a common ground for all individuals to establish their own career without prejudice and gender-biased treatment. I also appreciate the positive feedback from colleagues and the CEO himself for all the tasks that I have undertaken and completed. It boosted my confidence knowing that the highest person in the company knows everyone in the company and acknowledges his/ her accomplishments personally.”

Ninety per cent of students said that after their industry placement they were more interested than not to pursue a career in the South Australian defence industry.

industry placements chart 5

The best result of the program is that 90 per cent of students have been employed by their host company on a full-time, ongoing or a casual basis until they graduate from their degree. Where students weren’t employed, it was the decision of the student to continue with further studies or take a graduate position with other defence industry companies.

Interested in learning more about hosting student interns in industry placements?

If your company is already hosting university students as part of an established internship program or through partnerships with higher education providers, or if you are considering hosting university students in your workplace for the first time, you may be interested to read more about the two programs Ai Group is delivering to support these placements in South Australia and Victoria:

The South Australian Premier’s Defence Industry Scholarships Program funded by the South Australian Government. Email:

The Victorian Defence Industry Scholarships funded by the Defence Science Institute. Email:

For further information about work-integrated learning and hosting student placements, please visit the Australian Collaborative Education Network Limited (ACEN) website.