There’s been a lot of debate lately about the value of a university education for aspiring entrepreneurs, with critics arguing that Australian universities have been too slow to launch initiatives and industry partnerships that give students hands-on experience. Industry, for its part, has been strong in its approach to students and this is only getting stronger, with Sydney fintech hub Stone & Chalk today launching Fintern Fever, an internship program that will see 30 university students work with a resident startup over the summer.
The program was launched through ribit, a new platform from Data61 linking businesses to students and universities. Over 400 business, commerce, and technology students from around Australia applied for the program, with 100 then selected to pitch for a place to the startups themselves.
Alex Scandurra, CEO of Stone & Chalk, called the program a “hallmark collaboration” between the startup community, universities, Data61 and CSIRO, Finsia, and the Committee for Sydney.
“For the first time ever, we’re giving budding student entrepreneurs the opportunity to experience and contribute to, first-hand, the journey of a fintech startup in a fantastic office space in the heart of the financial district,” Scandurra said.
Professor Nick Wailes, associate dean of the UNSW Business School (Digital and Innovation), said the program is a fabulous opportunity for students to immerse themselves in “startup culture” while still at university.
“Whether our students are interested in establishing their own disruptive business or securing a role with an established firm in banking or consulting, getting first-hand experience in the fintech sector is a great addition to their studies,” he said.
The 100 students will be pitching for one of 30 places at Stone & Chalk today in a speed dating-type event. As well as hands-on experience working across various areas with a startup, from coding to content creation and business modelling, those who make it will be given mentoring, networking opportunities, and tailored seminars. The program aims to help these students build leadership skills and outline career pathways.
Depending on the individual startups, the interns may be given ongoing opportunities once the program finishes, while remuneration will also vary.
Given the whole university/internship debate, the program is a good move from Stone & Chalk, especially considering the hub only opened its doors a few months ago. It also comes just a few weeks after the hub launched a mentorship program pairing residents with established industry leaders and entrepreneurs to help accelerate and scale their startups.