Finding a relevant engineering internship just got a whole lot easier thanks to a new Internship Program developed by UNSW’s Torch Innovation Precinct.

The program not only gives students the opportunity to create links with UNSW’s industry partners in China, but showcases the high-quality of our students to employers who are always on the lookout for new talent.

Professor Yuan Wang, Head of UNSW Torch Innovation Precinct

“Engineering students have told us that they would like more assistance in finding suitable internship placements, particularly for the compulsory 12 week Industrial Training component of their degree,” says Dr Yuan Wang, Head of the Torch Innovation Precinct at UNSW. “So, we instituted the Torch Internship Program to help fill that gap.”

It has already proved popular. Since it was set up in September 2017, 10 companies in six Chinese cities have offered almost 50 internship positions, which have attracted over 120 applications from students.

“The program not only gives students the opportunity to create links with UNSW’s industry partners in China, but showcases the high-quality of our students to employers who are always on the lookout for new talent,” Wang continues. “Our aim is to be able to offer at least 50 placements per year.”

Torch at UNSW is an independent offshoot of the Chinese Torch Program that was established about 25 years ago and is arguably the most successful entrepreneurial program in the world, having spawned over 150 high-tech zones across China.

As the first Torch precinct outside of China, Wang’s job is to create a vibrant ecosystem of investors, researchers, students and SMEs, from both Australia and China, and to increase linkages and opportunities between the two countries.

Yalun Cai was selected for a two-month internship at top photovoltaics company Phono Solar in the City of Nanjing, Jiangsu Province during the 2017-2018 summer break. Cai is a postgraduate student in the School of Photovoltaic and Solar Energy Engineering (SPREE) and says that although undertaking an internship is not mandatory for Masters students, it was something he personally really wanted to do.

“My main interest in the photovoltaics industry is around the technologies used in manufacturing, which is why I applied for the R&D trainee position at Phono Solar. It was a steep learning curve but discovering how to apply my theoretical knowledge from the classroom to practice was an amazing experience,” he says.Observation on the maintanence

One of the most valuable takeaways was the hands-on aspect and Cai says he not only got to write proposals for solar cell experiments but he got to conduct them too. “Along with two colleagues, I was able to undertake the whole process. From getting approval, through to arranging it with production line managers, analysing results, drawing conclusions and presenting a report to management,” he says.

Perhaps even more valuable is the clarity Cai now has about his future. “By getting real-world experience in industry I’ve realised that I’m more interested in developing new technologies from an academic perspective rather than by going directly into industry,” Cai explains.

“You have to try both before you realise which one suits you best, and I feel very grateful to Phono Solar and UNSW for giving me the chance to do this. I would recommend it to any student wanting to get a deeper understanding of their industry.”

Sherlock Pu is the Vice General Manager of R&D at SUMEC Clean Energy Holdings (the parent company of Phono Solar). As an alumnus of SPREE, Pu says he played an integral role in promoting the Torch Program to SUMEC and getting the company signed up as UNSW industry partner.

“Based on the relationship we have with UNSW and the consistent excellent performance of UNSW’s students, Phono Solar decided to get involved in the Torch Internship Program as soon as it was announced. On the one hand, Phono Solar can help interns to understand the operation of a real commercialised company – which is very important for them to know. On the other, Phono Solar can attract some good talent for future company expansion,” says Pu.

“I believe Chinese companies have a lot to benefit from offering internships through this program. China has the biggest and liveliest consumer market in the world right now and for those workplace freshmen, there are a lot of great opportunities for them here.”