The first student to graduate from LA Services + Big Picture Program

David was one the first students we undertook as part of the Big Picture program here at LA Services. During his time here he worked with a number of our staff members who helped him engage in various activities such as our Sigma project, as well as learning new skills like effective communication, writing and advanced forms of mathematics. David even took the skills he learned during his internship and applied them to his own schoolwork.

On completing his 2.5 year long internship, David received an offer from UTS for a full scholarship, making the Big Picture program beneficial to him, both in the short and long term.


David was one of the first students to join the Big Picture Program at LA Services after he was recommended by his principal at Liverpool Boys High School. David had preconceived notions about what a manufacturing company is and what they do, which he felt didn’t align with his interests. However, upon viewing the technologies used by LA Services, David took an interest in the company and became involved in the Sigma project. Through engaging with this project, he learnt about the hardware and the operational side of the business. Working on these projects allowed David to interact with people from different industries as well as teaching him effective communication skills.

However, it also made him realise that he had previously lacked the research and literature skills to properly succeed in a technological field, something which his time at LA Services helped to remedy. This led to time spent with data scientist and former UTS student Ming Zhao, who further helped in progressing his skills with coding. Through his time at LA Services, David seemed to have worked better than he would have at school. This could be attributed to the more mature environment with strictly adult workers guiding him through the workplace. He also believes that the long-term internship was a necessity in his most formative stages of life when he started to seriously consider his future in the technological field. Ultimately David largely benefited from his time at LA Services, not only because of the skills he learned, but also later receiving an offer from UTS to join their university as a research assistant with a full scholarship.

Image : David presenting his project work to the LA Services team.

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The core project that was worked on while David was spending his time at LA Services was the Sigma project. At first he was mentored by General Manager David Fox, who delved into real life skills that are needed in any company by going through problem solving and effective communication skills, then later going through the basics of thesis writing and academic research. This project tested David’s skills mainly in problem solving, often utilising ancillary skills such as writing and visualising through the use of diagrams and whiteboard brainstorming. This allowed for more freedom and creativity as it let David and his mentors to express themselves and their ideas without being shackled down by any rules or formalities. This also paved the way for David to network and interact with people who were in the technological and engineering field, giving him more of an insight into the industry.

Image : With the General Manager David Fox, brainstorming mathematics problems

Workplace Learning and How it Differs from School

David ultimately preferred the work environment at LA Services as opposed to a regular school education environment. This was due to him being able to work with professionals in an environment which was more focused on the individual student and being able to specialise work to cater to his interests. At first, he worked with software engineer Kirk on coding which helped with supplementing small-scale projects, however, after some time someone with more experience was required to help teach David in his passion for programming. Eventually, Ming was bought on to help David with data and programming. Ming took a more tactical approach towards mentoring, providing David with weekly tasks to keep him engaged and effectively track his progress. David was later able to take these skills learned from Ming and apply them to his own classes at school. He went on to do extension maths II in year 11 and 12, despite not doing maths since year 9, a decision that can be attributed to his experience at LA Services.

Image : With Raaid, a former engineer and mentor to David.
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The Industry Internship

Developing talent and skills for the future of work requires work-integrated learning environments that encourage curiosity and problem solving; a different kind of ‘common knowledge’ to the past, but critical for organisations working at the intersection of I4.0 and traditional manufacturing. But why would a ‘technology disruption’ demand a deliberate shift away from traditional ways of working and learning? One primary reason is ‘connectivity’. Technology and data management combined with cross generational knowhow will be what powers valuable products and services in the future.

Embracing the shift in ways of working

Manufacturing is on its way to understanding success is no longer defined by a B2B product focus alone but emotional connections between “people, planet and prosperity” (the 3Ps). Coupled with technology development and adoption, a cultural shift towards divergent thinking can reposition the workforce to embrace ideals of the new ways of working. 

Through extended internships, the manufacturing industry and education can agree on the needed skills and knowledge for future manufacturers and provide opportunities to explore applied knowledge and learning as the new norm. We talked about this idea in a post back in July 2019 proposing that learning and work need to converge to prepare workers for the continuous and rapidly changing work of the digital future.

So how does industry and education get on the same page about the skills and knowledge for tomorrow’s manufacturing? One way is through extended internships that provide opportunities to explore applied knowledge and learning as the new norm.

While internships are well established at the higher education level, there are a number of hurdles to overcome for a school student to participate in such a program, the most obvious one is a school system that provides curriculum flexibility to support alternative learning plans. It then needs to match a business and capable mentors with a student to deliver a meaningful learning environment. And to have widespread impact all this needs to be scalable. Developing such a system is doable, but will require a long transition to change mindset, infrastructure and governance, however that should not stop early adopters from paving the way and testing ideas to support change.

Introduction to Big Picture Education Australia

Big Picture Education Australia (BPEA) is one key vehicle in school based industry-education engagement becoming a reality, by setting an adaptive curriculum framework that enables a school interested in providing an alternative pedagogy. 


Big Picture focus on providing the students with the relevant technology and information that allows them to explore the independent work in their preferred industry and create their own projects to be showcased later on to other students/industry professionals. This creates the perfect opportunity for students to build a portfolio from a young age as the program adds value to the student’s education to create a definitive edge in a competitive job market. It is also a great reflection of their tangible growth in technical and practical skills, which can be shown to future employers and universities. 

Liverpool Boys High is one of approximately 40 schools across Australia providing BPEA opportunities, LA Services is fortunate to be located near this school and has the necessary mindset and capacity to provide internship support. So, after three years of internship participation what has been learnt about this alternative learning pathway and what benefits have come from this participation?

Internship History at LA Services

To date LA Services has provided industry support for three formal school internships through Liverpool Boys High School and four university internships with Macquarie University and University of New South Wales, and each one has had a different style to suit varying student needs. 

The need to tailor each internship to the individual came to light particularly with Jacky’s case. Jacky, a student of Liverpool Boys, was one of those students who was unsure of his passion and joined LA Services after high praise from a fellow intern. Shortly along the way, we noticed a lapse in expectation but continued to explore the different paths until we found one that suited Jacky’s creative mindset. As we started to focus on Jacky’s passion in games, he showed fantastic progress under the mentorship of LA Services’ UTS placed data science researcher (Ming Zhao), gaining a deeper understanding of game development than achievable in the school environment.

Reflecting on the outcomes of this and other internships, we have pinned the critical requirements from an industry partner in this kind of an arrangement :

Provide a very focused and playful learning experience to opened up a student’s world view and make some specific connections between learning threads and their use in real world outcomes, raising awareness about education value

Provide opportunity to build technology awareness by engagement with multiple professionals across different technology domains. This broad exposure allows a student to identify areas of interest and derive a learning pathway that delivers the specific learning needs to pursue a career in that interest

Play a support role, providing specific teaching of skills to supplement an existing area of interest setting the student up with a broader knowledge base for their chosen post school pathway

Provide a hands on experience that brings theory and existing knowledge into action, and puts the realities of doing into perspective to shift perceptions and support career planning and choices

Reaping the benefits

So what benefits have internships brought to LA Services and its need for a divergent thinking cross generational workforce? An initial benefit comes via the need to pivot from the outcomes plan over the internship period which builds organisational comfort in flexibility, adaptation and change. Regardless of the internship type, there is a need for “disciplined creativity(Great by Choice, Collins & Hansen. 2011). What we have found is, existing employees involved in mentoring see a need to upskill or simply widen their own world view by investigating new threads that come from the ‘de-shackled thinking’ and freeform internship conversations.


This self reflecting process driven by cross generational dialogue is the very culture shift that is needed to A) capitalise on the potential opportunities across I4.0 and B) to shift the perception of the industry in the next generation of manufacturers.

This time is right to shift away from ‘rule following’ and a ‘this is how it is done’ mantra.

This may seem like it devalues seasoned knowledge and expertise, but it needs to be remembered, context is everything in business. Meaning past views and ways of working, that are held fast when a business environment has moved on, can hold back progress. A principle that has high relevance in the dynamic world of I4.0.


Internships, if embraced as part of the change mechanism, are a means of disrupting a business’ status quo, challenge ideals and encourage personal growth. The future of manufacturing work needs a blend of foundational experience and knowledge channeled through new technologies and to combine these there must be cross generation input and an inclusive mindset : attributes internships deliver.


The ‘Future of Work’ – Academic Theory vs Learning Integrated Work

It seems like the only constant at present is that the old order of doing things is being challenged in every corner of the economy. While different sectors are dealing with the opportunities of change at varying rates, the responses are primarily within the realm of the relevant industry, bringing some comfort to the change agents. What is interesting in the ‘Future of Work’ proposition, is how enterprises will compete for the best talent as technology and business models blur the lines between once disparate sectors, and hence widens the playing field for attracting top talent. Imagine a manufacturer looking to hire UX or UI design capability to grow a new thread of an advanced manufacturing service, how might this outside industry attract such talent and compete with the incumbent normally engaging these capabilities. Defining the future of work makes for a fascinating conversation that spans everything from how we educate the next generation, to business strategies and re-skilling established talent.

Dr Sean Gallagher says learning and work need to converge to prepare workers for the continuous and rapidly changing work of the digital future.

While this topic was not front and centre for LA Services when it began dabbling in digital in 2016, it quickly became a conversation as we contemplated how our future state may look. So it is not a surprise to us that the ideas raised in Swinburne University’s recent Centre for New Workforce report, title; “Peak Human Potential: Preparing Australia’s Workforce for the Digital Future” are aligned with where LA Services stands today based on its recent digital transition

experiences. In our minds, there is no question a deep digital dive by a traditional business like LA Services will:

a) force a definition around the ‘future of work’ that will influence strategic planning, and

b) change the landscape on what are considered high-value skills versus baseline competencies.

We thought it would be interesting to compare the theory of this recent report with what has been experienced on the ground at LA Services during three years of experimentation with an I4.0 pathway. Here is a summary of what we think, framed around the report’s executive summary content and noting our business context is “a least-disrupted industry” meaning jobs have typically not previously been displaced by digital:

Future-ready Workers

Future-ready workers areunderstood to represent how different workers view skill value and hence job security. Simply put, task orientated (traditional skills) versus the softer social type skills. Our experience is aligned with the results in that traditional expertise are valued far more than social competences by our workforce (a least-disrupted industry). Yet as we map out our manufacturing future it is apparent the knowledge sector workers view of; “collaboration, empathy and social to entrepreneurial skills” will play a lead role in bringing new value to products, services and revenue opportunities. It seems the OECD forecast of a ‘balanced skill set’ will become unavoidable as we transition towards a digitally literate workforce and knowledge markets.

Learning-integrated Work

Learning-integrated Work is a term the report uses to take ‘learning off campus and immerse it into a disruptive work environment, such as an Industry 4.0 setting’ in a quest to meet future learning needs. Reflecting on our last three years, which can be described as an education in ‘intrapreneurship’ framed around wrestling the diversity of I4.0. Our own disruptive learning-integrated work setting has been instrumental in shifting our family SME mindset from ‘not knowing what we don’t know’ to ‘knowing what we don’t know’, and equally important what are the levers we can pull to change the future of the company, depending on succession ambitions and the choices that will underpin strategy.

A new Learning Infrastructure

A new Learning Infrastructure represents the convergence of industry and education working together to bring a new context to our education efforts. Not to say that present educator efforts are not valued, but in our minds, this means adding a layer of application context led by industry. . In reviewing the details of the report, the only difference appears we call it Learning Through Internship (LTI). While this experiment has underpinned many lessons in an industry/education partnership, the test bed is about to evolve, with a UTS led Research Placement Project that will allow us to immerse two LBH interns into this higher learning environment to experience the mathematics, data architecture design, literature review and business planning that will underpin our I4.0 uptake.

Overall the theory represented in this latest Swinburne report has a high degree of correlation to the learning pathways LA Services has formulated through practice, and the views we hold about the future of work as we move towards our advanced manufacturing ambitions. It is another indication to us that academia and the manufacturing industry including SMEs’ are converging on outputs that will begin to restore our industrial commons, and with it create new value that will ultimately improve employment potential and impart a positive social impact community by community.


How a Gaming Enthusiast Benefited from Workplace Learnings at LA Services

Jacky came to LA Services in 2019 and spent 18 months being mentored after hearing about the Big Picture Program from his principal at Liverpool Boys High School. Jacky had a passion for game design, which was a career path that wasn’t viable through regular schooling, so he saw LA Services as a viable option as somewhere to start. While spending his time at LA Services, Jacky worked alongside another student, David, and data scientist Ming Zhao, a former UTS student who possesses a master’s degree in IT. This was beneficial to both Ming and Jacky as it allowed Ming to gain experience mentoring and imparting his knowledge onto aspiring students and provided Jacky with sufficient knowledge to get engaged with university level discussions.

At the end of his experience with LA Services, Jacky was largely satisfied and believed that the internship was a suitable alternative to the regular school curriculum for his desired career path in game design. This was due to the more intimate mentor mentee relationship, which allowed him to foster his creativity, as well as developing his hard skills such as using the software efficiently and soft skills like effective communication with others.

Core Project and Skills Learnt

Jacky’s core project used the software UNITY to help in furthering his passion in game design. Through using this program, Jacky was able to gain a greater understanding of software programming through utilising practical thinking while working with Ming. This led to Jacky being able to engage in university conversations whilst having a sufficient understanding of what was being talked about. These skills were all learnt directly from Ming and without any type of outside course, demonstrating the effectiveness of the BP Program and the benefits of a one on one mentor-mentee relationship.

Image : Jacky working with another student intern David

Workplace Learning and Opportunities Presented

Like others before him, Jacky found that working at LA Services through the Big Picture Program much more effective than regular schooling as the one on one nature of the teaching made the process more effective and enjoyable. Another benefit was that it gave Jacky the opportunity to interact with others who weren’t his teachers or fellow students, giving him a different perspective on Industry 4.0 and an overall different learning experience. Ming also provided Jacky with weekly tasks to chart his progress, making for an effective learning environment for both mentor and mentee.

The Big Picture Program greatly benefited Jacky as it taught him many valuable skills that were relevant to his interests such as coding, that a regular school environment couldn’t provide. His experience at LA Services also led to university programs being offered, setting him up for early successes. He was able to connect with key stakeholders and eventually secure a spot in the Information Communication Technology course at Western Sydney University with the presentation of his portfolio, emphasising his hard work from a young age.

Image : Jacky working with Ming Zhao of UTS