by DENISE JACKSON and BONNIE AMELIA DEAN

Work-integrated learning (WIL) is now widely recognised as an effective way of helping our higher education students become more work and career ready. By engaging with industry and community partners on real-life tasks and projects, students gain valuable insights combining theory and practice, resulting in confident graduates prepared for future work.

Embracing the full spectrum of WIL activities (work-based, on-campus, virtual, global) universities can respond to the challenges of scalability and equitable access, enabling all students to connect with industry/professions during their studies. More evidence on how different WIL activities can enhance work readiness will support educators in scaffolding WIL through degrees.

ACEN’s (Australian Collaborative Education Network, peak national body for WIL) recent introduction of questions in Australia’s national Graduate Outcomes Survey (GOS) helps us understand the impact of different types of WIL on student employability.

Over 70,000 Australian coursework and research graduates responded to questions on how different types of WIL influenced perceptions of their own employability and different skill outcomes. ACEN found that, in line with earlier research, work-based WIL helped students improve their skills and made them feel more employable and prepared for employment.

Interestingly, non-workplace WIL (e.g. on-campus/virtual projects) was perceived to be more effective for developing skills, particularly those relating to teamwork skills. WIL that took place globally (e.g. international internship or service-learning experiences) promoted skills such as adaptability in new graduates.

A summary of the study’s key findings is freely available in ACEN’s full report and webinar.

This research highlights a number of considerations. For educators, embedding different types of WIL across the degree supports different aspects of student employability. For industry, a variety of WIL approaches is critical to developing future graduate talent yet requires employers to partner with educators on learning opportunities such as: a consultancy arrangement; a problem for team-based projects; or an internship. Finally for students, there is value in engaging with industry and community as part of their university studies. This should be a key consideration for students when exploring course options and preparing for their future life and career.

All ACEN institutional members can opt-in (free of charge) to include the WIL items in their GOS. Please contact ACEN for further information.

Professor Denise Jackson (ACEN National Director), Director of WIL – School of Business and Law, Edith Cowan University, d.jackson@ecu.edu.au.

Dr Bonnie Amelia Dean (ACEN National Director), Head of Academic Development and Recognition, University of Wollongong, bcord@uow.edu.au, @_BonnieDean.


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