The Australian Indian Sports Educational and Cultural Society’s (AISECS) webinar “Envisioning career pathways and support services out of Covid-19 for International students” conducted on 7th October offered a valuable insight into the career prospects that international students can look forward to now that the mist of uncertainty stemming from the Covid-19 crisis has started lifting to some extent.  

AISECS, a non-profit organization founded by Gurnam Singh, a sports entrepreneur and educational activist in 2018, is dedicated to fostering and strengthening the bilateral relations between India and Australia by organizing sports, educational and cultural programmes; and maintains a close relationship with the governments of both countries.  On 7th October, 2020, AISECS hosted the webinar titled, Envisioning career pathways and support services out of Covid-19 for international students to allay the uncertainties and apprehensions plaguing international students regarding potential career opportunities, study pathways and sports services available to them post Covid-19. The panel of guest speakers comprised Manish Gupta, Consul General of India, Sydney; Craig Foster, former Socceroo, human rights advocate and pioneer of the PlayForLives campaign; Peter Mackey, Director of Study NSW and Gurnam Singh, founder of AISECS. Narasimhan Ravi, one of the international students acted as the moderator for this webinar.

Rational thinking and objectivity key to recovery

Highlighting the wave of anxiety and mental health issues among the international students during the initial phases of nationwide lockdown prompted by the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic, Manish Gupta, Consul General of India, Sydney talked about the clamour among the panic-stricken Indian students in Australia who wished to go back home. He went on to acknowledge how the coordinated efforts of various community organisations, AISECS being one of them, in bringing the situation under control by providing requisite support to the students facing financial hardships and accommodation related crisis.  Exhibiting optimism, he commented upon the much improved ability of the global community to navigate its way through the pandemic by being better equipped now as compared to six months back. With some universities having moved back to face to face learning, testimony to the fact that people have begun to adjust to the new normal, the Consul General feels that rational thinking and objectivity are the keys to recovery. Lauding the efforts of organisations such as Study NSW that have come up with their own support packages for international students, he encouraged existing and potential students to look at the current adversities as a door to new avenues.

He also assured the students that both the Indian government and the Australian government were working towards feasible steps facilitating the return to Australia of the Indian students who had gone back to India. The Indian government having proposed an air bubble agreement between the two nations is looking forward to its materializing in the imminent future.

Expanding roles and scope of Sports industry

“Sports have a profound ability to help lots of people both internally and externally through inter-cultural and inter-faith collaborations. It helps to break down barriers and provides a safe place for people of different ethnicities and religions to collaborate,” said Craig Foster, former Socceroo and pioneer of the PlayForLives Campaign. He is also the Adjunct Professor of Sports and Social Responsibility at Torrens University. Having realized that the Sports industry would be closed down for a considerable time, he started the PlayForLives campaign urging sports professionals to get off the bench and devote themselves into working as volunteers to pack hampers containing essentials for vulnerable members of the community, refugees, homeless people and the elderly. He has also been working with multicultural communities like AISECS as well as the Department of Health and the Federal Government of Australia to connect and engage with culturally and linguistically diverse communities to ensure that everyone has access to the guidelines for Covid safety.

Emphasising on the radical transformations that the arena of sports has experienced in the wake of the pandemic, he said that the sports industry had to adapt to the new reality and sports organisers and sports professionals even at the grassroots level came up with new ways to interact with their supporters to continue giving them value for their investments. According to him, students need to stay abreast of the innovations in sports industry and learn new skills; digitization of sports which was already very significant has accelerated and students in the future will need to have a clear understanding of these. New levels of professional competitions were seen in sports without the presence of fans as artificial intelligence was used to provide crowd sounds at precise moments thus, making it evident that the influence of AI and other sophisticated technology will continue even in the post Covid- era. He also stated that sports professionals and organisers were bound to become more actively involved in social issues such as human rights which according to him, is another area in which students can have a potential career.

Study NSW’s support packages providing relief to students

Study NSW, a government organization, has taken several initiatives such as providing assistance in transitioning to online studies, temporary crisis accommodation support and providing food packages, to soothe the worries of international students who would otherwise have been left in the lurch. Study NSW Director Peter Mackey gave an overview of the NSW government unit’s crisis accommodation scheme which was initially launched for 12 weeks but now has been extended to 20 weeks. So far, almost 4000 students have received accommodation support under this scheme. Also, 10,000 food packages have been delivered to the students and a recent government approval of 1.2 million dollars will help them in rolling out an additional 50,000 packages. Peter Mackey also explained the procedure and the eligibility criteria to apply under this scheme.

AISECS unique remote internship programmes

AISECS founder Gurnam Singh who himself came to Australia as a student and had to face several hardships. Reiterating the essence and the core idea behind the genesis of AISECS, he talked about the five different remote internship programmes launched by the community organization which are open for all aspirants across the group. Spanning 12-15 weeks, these web-friendly internship programmes relating to sports and youth development, information technology, entrepreneurship and leadership programmes, media and marketing, and government and public relations aim to equip the interns with an understanding of management skills by providing one-to-one support.