Unitec students gain taste for business at ‘Big Break’ final

Published: Fri 7 Sep 2012 11:25 AM
Unitec students gain taste for business at ‘Big Break’ finals
Making the regional finals of the CPA ‘Big Break’ Project business competition is no small feat, but it’s all in a semester’s work for four Unitec Bachelor of Business students.
The CPA Big Break Project is a trans-Tasman competition, challenging undergraduate students to solve real-world business problems facing not-for-profit organisation, Make-A-Wish®.
Fijian-born brothers Phil Leveanasiga and Apisai Leveanasiga (The Unitec Dream Team) and Wendy Hawkes and Nicole Lin (The Wish) formed two of just four teams selected to compete in the NZ final held in Auckland last Friday.
The students were selected from a total pool of 214 entrants from across New Zealand and Australia.
“Being recognised as one of the top entries across both countries, and not just from New Zealand, was a welcome surprise,” says Wendy Hawkes.
Each team presented a SWOT analysis of Make-A-Wish® to a panel of business experts which included Barry Leitch, Trustee for Make-A-Wish® New Zealand, Liam Dann, NZ Herald Business Editor, and CPA Australia representatives David Jenkins, New Zealand Country Manager, and Mark Stinson, New Zealand Branch President.
Even though neither team won the inaugural New Zealand event, some ideas offered by both Unitec teams impressed the panel to help Make-A-Wish® raise funds in a tough market.
“When Barry Leitch said they will definitely look at implementing one of our key ideas, we were so excited,” says Phil Leveanasiga.
“Getting his seal of approval on our idea was the best part of this whole experience. While it’s a bit scary, it’s far more satisfying than just presenting to your classmates.”
Unitec management and marketing lecturer, Daniel Hunt, mentored the Leveanasiga brothers while senior Unitec finance and accounting lecturer, James Stewart, sponsored Wendy and Nicole throughout their project work.
“Our students got a real taste of the business world with this project, and a practical platform to build their planning, analysis, presentation, influencing, teamwork, and networking skills,” says Mr. Hunt.
“It’s a real coup for both our teams to make the national final of the first New Zealand CPA Big Break event. Phil, Apisai, Wendy and Nicole did themselves and Unitec very proud.”
All four students agree they had tremendous support throughout the project from their mentors and other department staff.
“Everyone has been so willing to help. The level of support we’ve received just blew us away – we’re so grateful,” says Wendy. “I’d definitely recommend the CPA Big Break Project to other students. It’s extra work, but you’ll hone your skills and be more ‘marketable’ to a potential employer.”
Phil agrees, and he also believes the experience – and even the venue for the final - boosted his confidence to achieve some lofty career goals.
“When I finish my accounting degree I want to work for a ‘Big Four’ company and eventually work my way up to a CFO position,” he says.
“The view from the 16th floor of the HSBC Building was awe-inspiring. And that’s where I want to go in my career – to the top of the business world.”

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