• Mayyada Mhanna

COVID-19 turns the iPREP WA experience into a home-based industry placement

Updated: Dec 9, 2020

Amid the unusual COVID-19 situation, the iPREP WA teams have finished their industry placement and provided the final outcome of industry projects for Round 1 2020. Usually, the start of industry placement is challenging as students need some time to adapt to work in an industry context after a quick, hard shift from their PhD thesis. The COVID-19 situation was not on the plan for our students and industry partners; and therefore, the end of iPREP WA placement was more challenging than the start, which was unusual.

As soon as students finished the Week 4 of their iPREP WA placement, the COVID 19 situation escalated rapidly and put us all in a critical situation. However, a quick decision has to be made. The iPREP WA team decided to cancel all face-to-face activities and events, use alternative delivery methods, and give the opportunity to both industry partners and students to extend their work beyond the official date of the iPREP WA placement. Our industry partners also were flexible enough to allow students work from home and find alternative communication methods between industry mentors and their iPREP WA Teams.

Due to COVID-19-related situation and needs, four of our industry partners whose projects were health-related had to shift/update their project focus. The other three projects were also impacted as a change on data collection methods had to be applied. Some iPREP WA students said that communications within each team were slightly impacted due to working from home. The physical, and face-to-face communications were still preferred by some students. However, they have overcome this challenge and managed to finish their placement ‘from home’ safely. Juliana Gadret Da Silva, a PhD candidate at Curtin University and one of the students who participated in the last iPREP WA round, shares her experience with iPREP WA under the COVID 19 circumstances as follows:

The iPREP 2020 internship was a wonderful opportunity for "putting my hands on industry", opening up my work perspectives, networking and for professional growth. It was the realization that the transferable skills I've learnt on my PhD can actually be applied on real life, with meaningful results. There is much more than meets the eye and this discovery is empowering. At the peak of the COVID crisis I was at the peak of the iPREP internship, based on a co-work/shared space in the center of Perth. As much as I was enjoying my experience and making the most of it, the uncertainties of this virus around were somehow worrying me.

I was feeling a bit anxious in regards that, as I was travelling 1 hour everyday by public transport + return. Going to meetings, community consultations, internship group trainings, meeting stakeholders and sharing my working space with not only my lovely team members but also with other co-workers from different companies. I've been in contact with so many people and have been to so many places that I could possibly be bringing this virus home or unintentionally helping on the spread. For these reasons, when our industry mentor advised us to conclude the internship from home It felt like the right choice. We were at the stage of writing our report and recommendations and it worked well quite well at this home office, social distancing mode. Our mentor was very much present via on line meetings, emails and phone and the team kept the collaborative work very actively.

On the other hand, in a personal level, it has been challenging to balance work from home with family around, including a high risk guest (my mom in-law, over 60's, with pre-existent health conditions living in our house for 5 months), homeschooling a 6 year old and entertaining a 3 year old cheeky toddler - in combination with the pressures of PhD submission. In this sense, as much as I am glad that we have had such meaningful and productive social-work interactions through the iPREP internship before the lock down, I am also glad that we were able to conclude it safely from the comfort of our homes as challenging as it was at a personal level.

I am very thankful for this opportunity and proud of what we have achieved as a group and with the results of our report. It has been an honor being part of such a meaningful work.

Thank you iPREP team for making a difference in so many students’ lives. Thank you to our mentor Chris Fairman, from IBN, for believing on us, brilliant mentoring and support.

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