Benefits of work-Integrated Learning

Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) programs require good partnerships between all stakeholders, including local businesses and community organisations.   Effective partnerships provide valuable learning opportunities to advance the notion of work ‘readiness' and go far beyond mere outreach activities to the very conduct of university research and teaching. Effective Work-Integrated Learning activities meet the needs of industry, students and universities in developing, delivering and reflecting upon learning experiences that benefit all stakeholders. 

Work-Integrated Learning has the ability to provide significant benefits for employers, students, academics and universities:

Benefits for employers

  • The ability to set up or test a new project
  • Having a dedicated resource to complete specific tasks or projects
  • The opportunity to give a potential recruit a trial without obligation
  • Using students' reflection on work experience as a recruitment criterion
  • Having a pool of potential recruits with some general awareness of workplace culture
  • An injection of new ideas;
  • Developing links with higher education institutions and feeding into teaching practices and methodologies and
  • Staff development opportunities that arise from employees mentoring students.

To gain the most benefit employers should:

  • Be aware that students are a resource and there is much to gain in providing students with WIL opportunities
  • Work with academic supervisors in identifying, developing and delivering WIL opportunities to maximise the benefits to your organisation;
  • Be pro-active in linking with higher education institutions and larger employers;
  • Be aware that work experience takes a variety of forms, and identify which might be most appropriate
  • Recognise the value of work experience as an integral part of a graduate recruitment strategy
  • Be aware that providing work experience opportunities helps to develop a learning culture in an organisation
  • Recognise the potential of employing students in terms of helping an existing workforce to develop skills for the future
  • Maximise the potential of part-time student employees by utilising them more fully 
  • Recognise the potential that international students can offer in providing a global perspective
  • Make links with higher education institutions to help develop a learning culture
  • Recognise the wide range of undergraduates and not just offer opportunities to 'traditional' young, full-time undergraduates
  • Not assume that work experience students constitute a 'nuisance' nor confuse work experience for undergraduates with work experience for school students and
  • Avoid exploitative practices when offering work-experience opportunities.

Benefits for Students

  • Working in a setting in which to put theory into practice
  • Developing an awareness of work-place culture and expectations
  • Developing ‘soft' skills such as communication, team working, email and report-writing skills, punctuality and attendance, leadership and career development;
  • Having an opportunity to develop a practical appreciation of your chosen profession
  • Developing practical skills to reflect upon in future studies;
  • Developing an appreciation of the fluidity of a rapidly changing world of work;
  • Short-term financial benefits - some students are able to earn whilst studying
  • Developing enhanced employment prospects and the potential of commanding higher wages on graduation
  • Obtaining practical assistance in developing career strategies and
  • Developing an awareness of business opportunities and building up a network of contacts.

To gain the most benefit students should:

  • Be aware that academic prowess alone is insufficient for a successful career in most fields
  • Recognise the potential for developing a range of skills, attitudes and abilities that come from WIL
  • Accept their role as a participant in a learning process and take responsibility for their learning whilst undertaking WIL
  • Anticipate the outcomes and reflect on WIL of all kinds
  • Make an active contribution to the organisation providing WIL
  • Recognise that there are a range of WIL options available, which provide different developmental or transformative opportunities that fit into a spectrum of learning
  • Aim to develop a portfolio of work experiences and
  • Be pro-active in arrangements to ensure the quality of the work experience.

Benefits for Academics

  • The opportunity for students to see their subject area in practice
  • The ability to integrate student learning experiences into curriculum development
  • The satisfaction of seeing students develop and mature
  • The enhancement of students' skills
  • Establishing links with a wider range of employers
  • Using employer contacts to ensure that their commercial or industry-related teaching is up-to-date
  • Using links to encourage employers to participate on-course validation panels in the development of subject areas, present guest lectures or participate in seminars
  • The creation and tailoring of innovative or more applicable WIL opportunities through collaboration with past employers of placement students
  • Identifying new and innovative research opportunities linked to practical application and
  • Developing expertise in assessment methods by working with employers who have experience in assessing 'employability' skills.

To gain the most benefit academics should:

  • Develop a wider view of learning (rather than teaching) and accept that learning also takes place outside the formal academic setting
  • Value work experience as a significant element of student learning and help students discover how they learn via work experience
  • Help students to develop the language to describe their skills and abilities and recognise the importance of all types of WIL
  • Acknowledge the development of generic skills as well as subject-specific attributes
  • Make more effort to identify and develop work experience contacts
  • Recognise that growing numbers of students have to work part-time during term time to survive
  • Attempt to identify the extent of such work and encourage and enable students to identify and reflect on the learning that comes from it
  • Seek ways of linking WIL to the assessment process to optimise the learning that comes from it, especially as assessment is a major factor in helping to shape the way students learn
  • Develop more flexible course programs that allow students to take up project-linked WIL opportunities throughout the academic year
  • Monitor the quality of learning in the workplace, in particular ensure that expectations are explicit and that all parties are clear about the aims of the experience and their responsibilities - making use of learning contracts where possible
  • Ensure that appropriate orientation and training is given to students to prepare them prior to the work experience, facilitate meetings between employers, students and staff at appropriate points during the work experience and act expeditiously to ensure that any problems that arise from work experience settings are dealt with promptly
  • Facilitate a qualitative evaluation by employers and students of the work experience through an accessible and robust debriefing and feedback process and use feedback to improve both the experience and the program of study to which it relates
  • Resist pressure from their institution to cut corners in the placement management process and pursue vigorously the issue of the appropriate funding of work experience and
  • Network with others in their institution and be willing to share their experiences, contacts and good practice.

Benefits for Higher Education Institutions

Senior managers in higher education institutions should endeavour to do all they can to help their graduates make the transition to the world of work as smooth as possible by providing a wide range of WIL opportunities. In particular, they should:

  • Give academic staff the time and resources to interact with the relevant industrial, commercial or public sector employers to enable them to increase their contacts and capitalise on their knowledge of the field
  • Create WIL opportunities for their undergraduates
  • Give status and provide promotion opportunities to staff who undertake to organise and develop WIL opportunities for their undergraduates
  • Encourage a professional approach to the management of WIL opportunities
  • Recognise the significant research opportunities associated with WIL activities
  • Recognise the potential that WIL has in enhancing Graduate Qualities
  • Arrange for an easily identifiable contact point for employers contacting the institution, which might include a one-stop-shop which co-ordinates a range of work experiences, a single co-ordinator who co-ordinates Faculty-based groups, or a single co-ordinator who can direct organisations to contacts across the university
  • Identify and support professional development requirements
  • Ensure university-wide procedures and regulations to enable a more flexible incorporation of work experience opportunities into programs of study
  • Recognise the role played by higher education careers services in identifying potential WIL opportunities, disseminating information about these opportunities, alerting students to the importance of WIL and advising them about their applications
  • Recognise the vital role of WIL in students' career education and planning;
  • Ensure a commitment at all levels for work experience, backed up by resources
  • Be aware of the potential of WIL as a means of extending higher education employer contacts at both the department and university level and
  • Ensure clear lines of communication within the institution and with employers about work experience opportunities and practices.

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