Student labour free to a good home

Companies wanting free labour for pet IT projects could get their wish from a project run by the University of Auckland.

Companies wanting free labour for pet IT projects could get their wish from a project run by the University of Auckland.

Project 340 matches student teams with commercial projects. Next month sponsor companies will be invited to introduce potential projects to selected students of the university’s information systems and operations management department.

Project supervisor Ian Howard (pictured) says the students approach their assignments with “trepidacious enthusiasm”. The university looks for projects that will provide a challenge to students and a benefit to sponsors but without undue risk, Howard says.

“It needs to be sort of important, but not critical … the sort of thing you want but don’t want to pay for,” he says.

“The good thing about these students is they’re very bright, but the bad news is it’s all like DIY stuff. Definitely a student project, but a student project par excellence.”

Students work in teams of three. Each student is expected to work on the project for at least 500 hours. Howard says the maximum project size should be within 2000 hours, completed from March to October.

Project 340 is now in its 17th year. Recent projects have included a billing system for Vodafone, an intranet for the Warehouse and a selling management system for Microsoft NZ, Howard says.

Asked whether local developers and outsourcing companies might see Project 340 as competition, Howard says many tend to take part.

“Two years ago we did a project for EDS. The good ones tend to use our people, because the project fits a very interesting profile.”

In the past it’s been common for students to find work with project sponsors, but the industry downturn has led to fewer placements. Even so, Project 340 is good preparation for students, Howard says.

“The people who do this tend to become the pick of the industry. They tend to go far and do extraordinarily well.”

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