Tom Gibson, a University of Melbourne graduate student studying Masters of Energy Systems, is Head of Sales and Marketing at social enterprise 40K.

Today, he shares his insights about what working at a social enterprise and the kinds of skills you need to get a foot in the door.

Can you explain a little about 40K and the work you do?

40K is an ambitious social enterprise that is working towards “creating access to quality learning to restricted environments anywhere on the planet.”

Over the past 12 years we’ve been building a world-first technology platform that provides primary school-aged students access to high quality education through tablet technology. Each tablet can run in an environment with fluctuating electricity, no internet connection and without the requirement of an un-trained teacher.

The platform enables employment of women living in rural Indian villages and enables 50+ children in each village access to high quality education afterschool.

Alongside the 40K PLUS program; 40K also engages in an internship program for university students in Australia. Partnering with 12 universities around Australia including the University of Melbourne, each year over 300 students live and work in rural India on 40K PLUS projects.

Over the past 18 months we’ve begun to scale our platform from 300 students in January 2016 to currently 1500+ students on the platform. We will also begin to branch out to new countries with 1000 children in Cambodia joining the program at the end of the year.

How many graduates participate in your programs?

Over 300 students each year participate in our internship program, 40K Globe. During the month, students live and work in rural villages to implement a new 40K PLUS pod in a new village.

They are responsible for sourcing the facilitator, finding the space and working with our in-country team to engage rural communities. At the end of the month students will open their pod (after-school learning technology platform) and will hand it over to the local community.

In the pod, there will be 50+ primary aged students who will benefit from the platform built by 40K. Our longitudal impact measurement has shown that 40K PLUS can improve comprehension of English by 2.5 years when compared to students studying without PLUS in the same region.

What kinds of internships do you offer?

There are two styles of internship projects.

The first is the 40K PLUS projects which help to scale and implement this microsocial enterprise in a new village.

The second available project is a media project which delves deeper into the social issues in rural India. Their project aim is to bring awareness to the lack of education and highlight the work of 40K PLUS and other NGOs working in the region.

What do you wish people knew/considered before submitting an application?

You’re not going to solve all the world’s problems in 30 days!

Quite often we have students applying for our internship who have an unrealistic expectation of what they can achieve in one month.

Development projects are hard work and are often repetitive in nature. We hope we can attract students who are aware that they will play a small but very important role in providing education opportunities to children in remote communities.

What kinds of skills do you find graduates are lacking? What do you wish they knew before they started with you?

We’re very lucky to have students come on our program from a wide range of backgrounds; education, engineering, business etc. Often the skills of one cohort complement the other and enables for greater personal development.

What would you say to someone looking to get started working in social enterprise?

Do everything! Often students come to us who have no idea what they want to do when they graduate.

My advice would be to give every opportunity available to you a shot. Whilst some opportunities may not work out, there will almost certainly be one that will stick. So get out there and give it a go!


This post is part of our Mind the Gap series, helping graduate students transition between study and work.

Find out more about Mind the Gap here.