TEDx meets a Hackathon. INTERCHANGE: A case-study of a virtual employability and entrepreneurship challenge that built the employability skills of students across 8 universities

Miss Natasha Munasinghe,1  Nuala Myatt-Bocaro2 Catherine Reed3 

1FRANK (franked.io), Sydney, Australia 2Study NSW, 3 Western Sydney University 

“From July – August 2020, INTERCHANGE; a fast paced Hackathon meets TEDx style collaborative project with WSU, UNSW, UTS, UON, CQU, ACU, University of Sydney, Torrens University, StudyNSW and franked.io took place. It has been shortlisted in the 2020 Australian Financial Review’s Higher Education Awards, under the category of Employability.

Featuring work-integrated learning which enables job readiness and employability skills, 284 international (from 39 countries), local undergraduate and postgraduate students completed a 5-week employability and entrepreneurship challenge. For 74% of attendees, English was their second language and 12% of participants took part whilst overseas.

INTERCHANGE produces enterprise-ready graduates who learn lean start-up methodology and solve real world problems faced by the community. Students validate their ideas with at least 10 customers/users before analysing feedback to ensure workable solutions. INTERCHANGE prompts practical tech-enabled solutions based on Artificial Intelligence, IoT, VR and AR and student teams each produce a video pitch submission for the challenge. INTERCHANGE participants have reported strong improvements in their entrepreneurial thinking as well as their communication and interdisciplinary teamwork skills. The students were able to build their confidence and quickly break down barriers and build friendships. This is important as many international students report social isolation as a common experience during their time in Australia.  Students are supported by industry mentors.

The INTERCHANGE model has proven to be sustainable and scalable. In 2020, the program pivoted  to 100% online delivery and has been used to develop new programs which further build the employability skills of students.



Natasha Munasinghe is CEO of FRANK, franked.io. FRANK has trained over 100,000 people in employability skills and has a mission to prepare people for the future of work. She is a lawyer, graduating from the University of Sydney and Australian National University, and currently sits as President of the Alumni Council for the University of Sydney guiding alumni strategy for 350,000 people globally. She recently completed study to be a Full Stack Developer winning the Women in Technology Scholarship & is enrolled in Stanford University’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Certificate.

Nuala Myatt-Bocarro has fifteen years of experience in the Australian international education sector including Student Mobility Manager at the Australian National University and Regional Recruitment Manager at Western Sydney University. She commenced at Study NSW in July 2015 to manage projects focused on enhancing the international student experience and promoting the education and research strengths within NSW. Nuala added value to her postgraduate degree through an exchange semester in Canada and has taught students from various cultural backgrounds both in Sydney and while living in Tokyo, Japan.

Catherine Reed: An administrator with more than twenty years of experience in the areas of account management, business development, stakeholder engagement and event management.

Catherine Reed, Compliance and Project Coordinator – International, has been working at Western Sydney University since 2013, leading and managing ‘Leadership’ and ‘Work Integrated Learning’ programs to the university’s International student cohort.

Catherine has a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Commerce Degrees.


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