Work Integrated Learning – the Benefits and Opportunities
Work integrated learning allows students to engage in real-world work experiences that support their preparedness for employment. The benefits include the opportunity to apply knowledge in practice, build professional networks, and enhance employability. For employers, it creates opportunities for staff training, meeting potential work candidates, and getting fresh input on projects.
What is work integrated learning?
The term ‘work integrated learning’ (WIL) describes purposeful and supervised learning programs and activities that connect university students with real-world work experiences with an industry or community partner in their field. WIL is all about integrating what you study in the classroom with its workplace application.
WIL activities are linked with one or more study courses, formally assessed, and applied as credit towards your study program. WIL can take several forms, including:
Work placements (also sometimes called clinical placements, internships, or practicums) give students the opportunity to engage in authentic, supervised work tasks during time spent within an organisation. For example, a physiotherapy student might complete a placement within a teaching hospital. They enable students to apply academic knowledge and develop professional competencies.
These involve university students working, either individually or as a group, to deliver on a project brief for a community or industry partner. For example, a group of information technology students might work on an IT company’s brief to research and develop a client’s network solution. Students get to apply theoretical knowledge to authentic scenarios, plus develop skills such as client communication, project management, and collaborative working.
In situations where real-world work experience may not be possible, or carry too much risk, work simulations enable students to apply their academic learning in an environment designed to approximate the real one as closely as possible. These activities usually involve using industry-specific activities, technology or equipment in a way that simulates the work environment’s complexities. Examples include university law students practicing in moot courts and trainee pilots using flight simulators.
This approach allows a student or group of students to build skills by partnering with an industry or community mentor. For example, a communications student might enter a mentoring relationship with a working journalist. Students can benefit from their mentor’s workplace experience, practical knowledge, and feedback about their performance.
The benefits of work integrated learning – for students
Work integrated learning has a plethora of benefits for students. Just some of them include:
- The opportunity to apply your hard-won academic learning to real-world work scenarios
- Building relationships with potential employers and industry colleagues
- Enhancing your resume with evidence of authentic work experience
- The chance to explore your chosen field and clarify your direction
- Developing valued workplace skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, project management and professional communication
- The opportunity to better understand a workplace’s culture
- A portfolio of work to show potential employers
- A deepened understanding of your future career and its real-world requirements.
What are the benefits of work integrated learning to the employer?
Students aren’t the only people to benefit from WIL. For employers, advantages include:
- The opportunity to upskill employees
- Building networks with industry and community partners and training organisations
- The chance to meet, identify and attract leading graduate talent
- Engaging teams of eager, knowledgeable students for work projects
- Giving back to your industry or profession.
How to get involved in work integrated learning
Getting started with WIL might seem daunting, but Practera makes the process simple and streamlined. Our experiential learning platform seamlessly connects students with authentic, real-world work experiences, at scale.
For higher education providers, the ability to offer high-quality WIL is a powerful differentiator. It can help your institution attract and retain students, enhance their employability, and build strong relationships with industry and community partners.
Practera partner with higher education institutions in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia to help them deliver exceptional WIL experiences that simultaneously reduce delivery costs and increase scale.
Practera helps employers develop the skills and capabilities of their teams while enhancing workflows and engaging with the upcoming generation of university candidates.
Our platform can connect your company with students eager to gain experience through real-world industry projects, internships and experiences.
For government agencies, Practera can partner with you to build industry and education system collaborations.
Our programs support the upskilling and reskilling of workers and helps you identify and attract top graduate talent.
Work Integrated Learning and COVID-19
Organising WIL projects has become more difficult in a socially distanced world by necessitating a shift to virtual delivery. The Practera platform addresses this issue by ensuring virtual WIL can still take place with a high level of quality.
A vital component of successful WIL opportunities involves providing students with the chance to reflect on their learning experiences. Practera’s experiential learning programs have inbuilt feedback loops designed by industry, peers and educators and backed by research. These are delivered at key moments to help drive critical reflection and deeper learning.
This key ingredient helps university students gain employability skills such as creativity and resilience, and ensures their virtual learning makes them ready for real-life careers.