When Ian Langdon first became Chair of the Gold Coast Hospital and Health Board, he knew he wanted to go beyond a traditional health and hospital partnership with Griffith University.

“I have a history back at Griffith because I was the inaugural Dean of Business way back years ago, when the first buildings were put up,” he explains. “When I became Chair here, I met with the Vice Chancellor and both of us agreed that if we were going to have a really good partnership – and we should between the Hospital and Health Service and the University – then it had to be a partnership that embraced more than simply doing things with the health faculty.

Griffith Business School [GBS] was the first port of call for me. I met with Lynlea Small very early in the piece, which has been very fortunate for us because she’s been a real go getter in the internship area,” Ian says.

He then came up with a project he wanted done but didn’t have the time to complete himself, bringing four MBA students from GBS on board to do the financial modelling.

Both Ian and Lynlea then promoted the idea of a project-based internship program to a couple of other executives in finance, who also flagged their interested in getting students to complete a few projects of their own.

“These days I don’t even have to do any promotion,” Ian says. “I really don’t. It has its own momentum. We get a reminder every six months or so that there is another group looking for internships, we circulate it through the Hospital and Health Service, then internal supervisors come forward. They have projects they need done, they don’t have time to do it, but they’re happy to supervise a good-quality student who’s happy to do it.”

The program, that’s been running since 2014, has seen more than 30 Griffith Business School students get involved. Last month saw the induction of a fresh crop of students getting valuable on the job experience at the hospital. The 2018 cohort — including Karen Spence, Alyce Clothier, Rebecca Freath, Rachael Cleary, Benitha Richmond, Rachel Ramoifuila and Stefanie Baker — will all work on specific projects with measurable outcomes during their time at the Hospital.

“Initially the projects were all in finance, but now it goes into the legal and human relations area, marketing, communications… there have even been one or two working within the Foundation in the creative marketing area on branding and so on.

“There are quite a number of key benefits of this partnership for the hospital,” Ian says. He explains that formalising the partnership and relationship between Griffith University and the Gold Coast University Hospital goes a long way in terms of community reputation. “The more we do that, the more we are seen as a genuine University Hospital,” he says.

“On a practical level the benefit here is it brings new ideas in. Certain ideas have accelerated us carrying out certain management steps. We’ve even had instances of positive student impact because their ideas have changed the behavior of something we were previously not doing. That’s a big benefit for us.

“Students benefit from getting real-life experience that they don’t get from a textbook or a lecturer. It gives them confidence and when they go for a job later on they can say, ‘I’ve not only been a student, I’ve actually done a job with a real organisation, this was the job and this was the outcome,’” Ian says.

He believes that along with providing students with professional development, work integrated learning helps participants with personal development as well. “When they come over [to work in the hospital] their personalities grow as a result of being over here simply because they are mixing with people other than students; they’re actually in the workforce,” he says.

“In terms of strengths, Griffith University Business School makes sure students understand the theoretical background of what they’re doing and they do a great job of that. What we add to that is ‘OK that’s wonderful, now apply it.’”

Signalling that the partnership between GBS and GCUH is a successful one, comments from all involved are very complimentary. “Without exception, the feedback from supervisors at the Hospital and Health Service about the Griffith University interns has always been positive. They believe it’s been worthwhile. They believe the students have grown as a result of coming over here. I hope they see that the students have actually gained personal confidence as well,” Ian says.

“I can say from our end is that it’s definitely worthwhile because we keep going back and asking for more [students],” he laughs. “And I can only assume the fact that the Business faculty keeps coming to us with students they must be thinking they are benefiting from it … I know they are.”