Sparking young minds: University partnership inspires students

6 July 2023

Klara Allen
Klara Allen, the 2023 Spark Business Prize winner, stands with Fabian Pathirana (L), Business Site Lead, and Sam Chatterjee (R), Region Lead Owner of Spark Greater Waikato.

University of Waikato marketing students are getting real-world sales experience thanks to a unique opportunity with Spark New Zealand.

The telecommunication company has joined forces with the Waikato Management School (WMS) to establish the Spark Business Prize, aimed at recognising top-performing students enrolled in the third-year Modern Professional Selling paper at the University.

This is the first time Spark has collaborated with a New Zealand university and there’s scope to roll it out to other institutions in the future.

Bachelor of Communication student, Klara Allen says the opportunity to write and present a sales training manual to a group of industry professionals was incredibly beneficial.

“Having the chance to engage with Spark and learn inside knowledge is invaluable,” Klara says.

Spark will provide $21,000 to WMS over three years to the student winners of the competition. The aim is to encourage marketing graduates in Hamilton and Tauranga to consider a career in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sales.

As part of the collaboration, Waikato students are experiencing practical learning and building relationships with top New Zealand companies, which could lead to future job opportunities.

Ten students from the paper were invited to deliver a 20-minute presentation at Spark in Hamilton on ‘My Action Learning Assignment (ALA) report: How it will set up a new sales recruit to succeed’.

For the report, students had to develop a sales training manual for a real business-to-business company of their choice.

The aim is to help students prepare for a sales-related career, develop knowledge of business development and selling processes and concepts, and put the theory of face-to-face selling into real work.

The Spark Business Prize serves as an add-on component to the third-year marketing paper.

Klara Allen was the competition’s winner, securing the top spot and a cash prize of $3000. Zoe Oosten claimed second place and received $2500 and Holly Wilson took home $1000 in third place.

Group photo of the judges
L-R, Sam Chatterjee, Roger Brooksbank and Baylee Niwa. Sam and Baylee from Spark were this year’s judges.

Sam Chatterjee, Region Lead Owner of Spark Business Greater Waikato, says technology is a fast-changing world and there aren’t enough skilled salespeople in the industry.

“If we can encourage students to learn the trade and get excited about technology and help businesses transform into new ways of working, then we have a bright future for New Zealand,” Sam says.

“I was blown away by the quality of presentations by these students. There is great talent coming out of this university. We would be delighted to consider job opportunities for these students.”

Dr Roger Brooksbank, Associate Professor of Marketing and lecturer for Modern Profession Selling at WMS, is witnessing a growing interest among students wanting to pursue a career in sales.

“Professional selling is a fantastic job as it offers above-average earnings, it has a certain amount of freedom, it kicks starts business careers and it offers unparalleled opportunities for personal and professional growth,” Dr Brooksbank says.

Statistics from the non-profit Sales Education Foundation, reveal that over 50% of graduates and 88% of marketing majors in the United States take their first job in sales.

Dr Brooksbank has been teaching Modern Professional Selling since 2004 and has worked with 90 clients across the world. He is author or co-author of over 200 publications, including six books, and has received WMS’s Outstanding Teaching Award.

The paper accounts for 39% of the student’s final grade and is available in the Bachelor of Business and Bachelor of Communication degrees.

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