Academic journal article International Journal of Training Research

Improving the Work-Integrated Learning Experience through a Third-Party Advisory Service

Academic journal article International Journal of Training Research

Improving the Work-Integrated Learning Experience through a Third-Party Advisory Service

Article excerpt

Introduction

Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) encompasses a range of learning activities which connect industry with education in both work and campus settings. The more traditional forms of 'placement WIL' include internships, practicums and placements whereby students are able to integrate and apply their discipline knowledge in a professional environment. 'Nonplacement WIL' is an increasingly important element of WIL where students are exposed to authentic learning activities with industry partners through, for example, work-based projects, simulations and role plays. In Australia, WIL is increasingly recognised for its broad benefits to the economy as a means of enhancing the work-readiness of new graduates, upskilling the labour force and improving labour productivity. This is apparent through the recently established National Work Integrated Learning (WIL) Strategy (Universities Australia, BCA, ACCI, AIG & ACEN, 2015) and the National Strategy for International Education 2025 (Department of Education & Training, 2016), both of which emphasise the need to effectively sustain and grow WIL in the higher education (HE) sector.

In response to industry calls for employees who are highly productive, innovative and globally-aware (Committee for Economic Development for Australia, 2015), HE providers are increasingly expected to develop student employability through co-curricular programmes and curriculum-embedded initiatives such as WIL (Australian Workforce & Productivity Agency, [AWPA], 2014; Balta, Coughlan, & Hobson, 2012). A number of challenges, however, hinder collaboration between universities and employers to establish WIL opportunities and achieve effective results for themselves and students. As a result, there is an imbalance in the supply and demand of WIL opportunities (Department of Industry, 2014) and difficulties in fully harnessing WIL's potential to prepare more effectively graduates for entry-level roles. These challenges include a lack of understanding among employers of what constitutes WIL (Department of Industry, 2014), causing confusion regarding the different forms it may take and how to get involved, misalignment among stakeholders' motivations for participating in WIL (Pilgrim, 2012) and lack of resourcing to facilitate WIL in their workplaces (AWPA, 2013). Further, the capacity of employers to engage in WIL varies according to business needs and cycles, calling for streamlined, flexible and adaptable WIL programmes. Although it is widely acknowledged that employers are instrumental to the success of WIL, there appears to be limited support available to help industry partners prepare for WIL and assist them during the WIL process (Department of Industry, 2014). Yet improving support mechanisms is vital for ensuring the sustainability and future growth of WIL and improving the experience for all stakeholders.

This study implemented a WIL Advisory Service (WAS), provided by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia (CCIWA) in a unique collaboration with four WA universities. The service was founded to broker relationships between employers and universities, support employers engaged in WIL processes and enhance the WIL experience for students and employers. It took place in a context of transition in the WA economy where significant falls in commodity prices have caused uncertainty and negatively impacted on business expectations and consumer confidence (Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Western Australia [CCIWA], 2015a, 2015b). In this climate, organisations appeared to be operating on lean financial models with sometimes limited resources available for WIL activities.

The research objectives for the study were to: (1) determine effective methods for raising employer awareness of WIL; (2) implement a WIL Advisory Service initiative to enhance the placement experience for students and employers; and (3) measure the success of the advisory service support on WIL experience for students and employers. …

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