Investing in relationships

WIL leaders need to manage a complex mix of relationships and communications. Industry engagement needs co-ordination. Identification of an appropriate University contact is one of the major barriers to participating in WIL, according to industry reports 2.2Atkinson, G., Misko, J., & Stanwick, J. (2015). Work integrated learning in STEM disciplines: employer perspectives: National Centre for Vocational Education Research.. External partners are also unlikely to understand the complex structures inside a University, and industry partners are often approached by many different parts of the same University with no cross-reference between contacts. Co-ordination can be underpinned by:

  • systems (a Faculty/University customer relationship database (CRM));
  • shared teams (Faculty or University industry engagement team); and/or
  • high-level agreements.

The right solution depends on the scale of WIL and the future trajectory. However, it is easy for short-term solutions, such as Excel spreadsheets, to turn into a management nightmare!
Likewise, students report that consistent and continuous communication about WIL is essential to widespread participation. Engagement with students should be everybody’s business. Students interact through teachers, support staff, library, online resources, student management services and many other channels. WIL leaders need to ensure that their messages about WIL reach students and are reinforced wherever students are making decisions about participation. Students need timely information to plan course enrolment and allocate time for placement or other intensive experiences.
WIL leadership needs to invest in relationships and communications. This can feel like ‘wasted’ time with little concrete outcome, but it is crucial to sustain WIL and allow growth.