Unilever Indonesia picks Melbourne Uni for corporate training

22 April 2022

The University of Melbourne has taken Australian education into a new area of global trade. Academics have helped Unilever Indonesia create a unique, graduate-training academy in Jakarta.

This case study examines:

  • how Australian academics compete with professional services companies
  • the training expertise on offer from Australian universities
  • the rise of a new kind of export service.

For more information, please contact Rodney Commerford, Trade and Investment Commissioner, Austrade, Jakarta.

Unilever seeks academic expertise for graduate training

Unilever is a British consumer goods company that sells over 400 household brands. It is also a global company, with sales and distribution teams in scores of markets around the world.

The company is world-famous for its graduate training program. In many countries, competition for places is intense. But in 2019, Unilever executives in Indonesia wanted to augment the program for incoming graduates.

‘Unilever recruiters look for the best and the brightest, but young graduates often lacked basic skills in sales and marketing,’ says Jennifer Sutton, Business Development Director, Melbourne School of Professional and Continuing Education, University of Melbourne.

‘Unilever in Jakarta wanted a digital business academy. But they also wanted something far beyond the usual corporate training program – they wanted something designed with academic rigour.’

Australia’s curriculum-design skills go corporate

Australian universities have a global reputation for student education. But they are also experts in curriculum design. And it’s this skill that caught the attention of Unilever executives in Indonesia.

The University of Melbourne offered to bring its professional, pedagogy skills to craft a training program for Unilever. In short, the skills and expertise developed by University lecturers to teach students would be used to create a corporate training program.

‘Our teaching faculties are ideas-led,’ says Professor Simon Bell, Head of Melbourne School of Professional and Continuing Education. ‘We bring state-of-the-art knowledge to training program design.

‘And of course, we are results orientated. We care about impact. How students – and the businesses they work for – perform is the end goal of everything we do.’

In late 2019, the University of Melbourne won the bid to create a new sales and marketing curriculum for Unilever. This was a major win against global professional services firms.

‘We chose Melbourne University because of the diversity of their training expertise,’ says Willy Saelan, Vice President for Human Resources, PT Unilever Indonesia Tbk. ‘Also, Melbourne University has experience of delivering training internationally.’

Unilever and Melbourne Uni jointly create a new training academy

Discussions on course development began in March 2020 – just as lockdowns made travel impossible.

‘The pandemic made face-to-face interactions impossible and this was a major impediment to course development,’ says Saelan. ‘The University of Melbourne overcame this by bringing their full team to virtual meetings. We designed the course with heads of faculties, program directors and the business development team.

‘This commitment allowed discussions to progress quickly. It meant the University understood firsthand what we wanted our sales recruits to learn and do.’

The university used co-design principles to jointly create the curriculum content. And they brought the full battery of academic teaching abilities to the project, from digital course design to superb assessment strategies.

‘Our academics used their teaching expertise, research and current pedagogic tools to build a cutting-edge program that is applicable to the Unilever context,’ says Associate Professor Tangerine Holt, Academic Program Director, Melbourne School of Professional and Continuing Education. ‘We were able to create content than combines client needs with academic learning theory.’

Program scaled for 500 students

The joint teams began creating training modules early in 2021 for delivery in April 2021. Eventually they created around 30 training modules that teach 500-plus Unilever employees.

The course includes practical, deep dive masterclasses, videos, and synchronous webinars for content delivery. The course can be delivered in person or online. The program is delivered by the University’s leading academics from the Faculties of Business and Economics, and Fine Arts and Music, and it forms part of a new training academy.

The academy includes ‘train-the-trainer’ modules. This is where Melbourne University academics focus on building capacity at Unilever to enable their leaders to become effective teachers.

‘Our Department of Fine Arts and Music helped devise courses in persuasive communication and teaching skills for the train-the-trainer program,’ says Associate Professor, Melissa Laird, Academic Program Director, Melbourne School of Professional and Continuing Education. ‘This means that Unilever’s own executive teaching staff are using the insights of professional creative arts pedagogy to enhance corporate training.’

New courses establish corporate credibility

The training academy highlights Melbourne University’s teaching expertise.

‘We are very proud of what we achieved,’ says Jennifer Sutton, Business Development Director, Melbourne School of Professional and Continuing Education, University of Melbourne. ‘Through the COVID pandemic we designed a program that will deliver a massive uplift in sales and marketing for Unilever employees in Indonesia.

‘We bring the bona fides of a major Australian university to one of the world’s biggest consumer goods companies. We have also created the foundation for a broad Australia–Indonesia partnership.’

Unilever’s leadership team are also proud of their new training academy.

‘The University of Melbourne demonstrated an incredible level of commitment to this partnership and our training needs,’ says Saelan. ‘From the outset they have brought their entire business into discussions. They tailored the program to meet the exact needs of Unilever Indonesia.’

The result takes Australia’s international education in a new, strategic direction. Project leaders believe there is huge scope for exporting professional pedagogic skills into the market for corporate training programs.

More information

For more information on how Australian education providers can help your business, please contact Rodney Commerford, Trade and Investment Commissioner, Austrade, Jakarta.