Students value the input and involvement of industry in their course curricula6.8 Jorre de St Jorre, T., & Oliver, B. (2017). Want students to engage? Contextualise graduate learning outcomes and assess for employability. Higher Education Research & Development, 1-14. doi:10.1080/07294360.2017.1339183. WIL provides students with an opportunity to develop skills, get hands-on experience and try out different career options2.2Atkinson, G., Misko, J., & Stanwick, J. (2015). Work integrated learning in STEM disciplines: employer perspectives: National Centre for Vocational Education Research., 6.5Jackson, D. (2015). Employability skill development in work-integrated learning: Barriers and best practice. Studies in Higher Education, 40(2), 350-367, 1.7Patrick, C., Peach, D., Pocknee, C., Webb, F., Fletcher, M., & Pretto, G. (2009). The WIL report: A national scoping study Final Report to the Australian Council for Teaching and Learning, ACEN. Sydney, Australia: Australian Council for Teaching and Learning.. However, participating in WIL, especially placement-type WIL, often requires students to sacrifice other opportunities, including paid work. Where WIL is optional, students must also be aware of the available opportunities and the value in choosing WIL above other options.
Strategies for engaging students in non-compulsory WIL include:
- Talking to students about how WIL can help them achieve their career goals;
- Ensuring that students are aware of WIL opportunities early in their course so they can plan for WIL;
- Being explicit about where WIL occurs in the course, and how other learning activities contribute to employability;
- Providing clear and easily accessible information about WIL on the university or faculty website;
- Asking colleagues who teach to talk to their students about WIL opportunities;
- Helping students identify professional networks or organisations through which they could access placement opportunities;
- Providing opportunities for students to hear from employers in the field, or students who have already participated in WIL;
- Encouraging students to identify jobs that they may be interested in and the skills they will require;
- Encouraging students to access the university careers service for help with their resume and ‘pitch’ so they are better prepared to approach external organisations for placements;
- Building students’ confidence for WIL by highlighting their existing skills and ways in which they will be able to contribute to the partner organisation.
It is important that all students have the opportunity to access WIL, but it is harder for some students to participate than others1.4Edwards, D., Perkins, K., Pearce, J., & Hong, J. (2015). Work Integrated Learning in STEM in Australian Universities. Canberra: Office of Chief Scientist & Australian Council for Educational Research. . A summary of the challenges in participating in WIL is included in WIL Basics. Strategies for ensuring equitable access to WIL include:
- Linking projects to existing work or work placement schemes, as in the SCIWILWORK case study;
- Making sure that students are aware of available financial support, and other relevant support services;
- Supporting students to discuss their needs and circumstances with industry partners, especially where students wish to disclose a disability or health condition;
- Not offering or awarding access to WIL opportunities solely on the basis of academic performance;
- Where possible, providing flexibility in the timing and structure of placements e.g. providing flexible deadlines;
- Involving industry through guest lectures, site visits, projects and other authentic activities, rather than just in placement-type WIL;
- Making use of simulations where possible1.4Edwards, D., Perkins, K., Pearce, J., & Hong, J. (2015). Work Integrated Learning in STEM in Australian Universities. Canberra: Office of Chief Scientist & Australian Council for Educational Research. ,1.6 Orrell, J. (2011). Good practice report: Work-integrated learning. Sydney, Australia: Australian Learning and Teaching Council., 1.7Patrick, C., Peach, D., Pocknee, C., Webb, F., Fletcher, M., & Pretto, G. (2009). The WIL report: A national scoping study Final Report to the Australian Council for Teaching and Learning, ACEN. Sydney, Australia: Australian Council for Teaching and Learning., 3.8 Dickson, K., & Kaider, F. (2012). Designing, developing and delivering work integrated learning to large student cohorts. Paper presented at the ACEN 2012 : Collaborative education : investing in the future, Geelong, Victoria..
Useful resources for engaging students
- The EmployABILITY student starter kit includes a self-assessment tool and a range of supporting resources