Collaboration between industry and universities is critical to achieving innovation which is a key driver of economic growth. Through the National Priorities and Industry Linkage Fund (NPILF), the government is encouraging greater industry connectedness with the higher education sector by proposing institutional incentives to develop more innovative work-integrated learning (WIL).

WIL, with its broad, deep and enduring partnerships across disciplines, is the largest industry and community engagement footprint in every higher education institution. WIL is an obvious strategy to drive and enhance industry-university connections and prepare graduates for the workforce.

Despite good intentions, the NPILF consultation paper fails to adequately recognise and build on recent innovations in WIL, which rapidly accelerated in response to challenges presented by COVID-19. This shift included WIL models such as micro- placements, on-line projects and hackathons. Expansion of diverse WIL models has been driven by the passion and commitment of under-recognised and under-resourced staff and is reliant on commitment and support from institutional leadership.

Recent research has identified enablers of innovation in WIL. To enhance this innovation further, support for national initiatives in areas such as staff capability, incentives for industry engagement, building WIL leadership, resourcing industry partners and ensuring quality in WIL is imperative. The Australian National WIL strategy provides a blueprint for achieving this, as do successful national initiatives implemented by countries such as Canada.

It remains to be seen what the metrics and mechanisms will be when the NPILF proposal is announced. What will be counterproductive is funding for piecemeal institutional initiatives scattered across the sector that don’t address systemically, nor systematically, enablers of quality innovative WIL.

This is an enormous opportunity to turbo charge innovation in WIL, enhance industry connectedness nationally and ensure graduates are job ready with the right settings that build on existing initiatives. Let’s seize the opportunity, not waste it.


Judie Kay, Vice Chair Partnerships and Programs, Executive Committee member, World Association for Work Integrated Education WACE. Consultant Graduate Employability, RMIT. Co-founder/ Past President, ACEN. [email protected]


Associate Professor Sonia Ferns, Adjunct Curtin University. Managing Partner, LearnWork Consulting. Immediate Past President, ACEN. [email protected]




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