Building bridges between students, educators and business

Belinda Howell Belinda Howell
General Manager Market Development

In February this year, five influential organisations including The Business Council of Australia and Universities Australia pledged to provide more help for students to bridge the gap between the university classroom and the workplace, with the aim to create a more practical, highly educated and highly skilled workforce.

Incorporating Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) into tertiary education institutions means students can obtain real life work experience in their chosen field of study while undertaking education. This will help boost productivity and better equip Australia to adapt to the rapidly evolving global marketplace.

The approach is beneficial for students, educators and businesses, and will help strengthen partnerships that can drive national competitiveness. While already practiced in some tertiary courses and institutions around Australia, this pledge will mean more students have the opportunity to enjoy a deep and practical learning experience, improving their employability and understanding of the sector they aspire to work in.

Some professionals have already embraced this integration. Engineering Australia recognises the importance of linking theory with practical experience, with completion of engineering studies followed by the acquisition of professional and practical competencies through on the job training and experience. One of the reasons the University of Technology, Sydney’s engineering degrees are so highly regarded is their practical orientation, with undergraduate students completing two six-month periods of internship in industry to hone their skills and apply theory to practice.

The statement of intent submitted by The Business Council of Australia, Universities Australia, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Australian Industry Group and the Australian Collaborative Education Network Limited clearly outlines the dedication of these organisations to innovate in the education and workplace sectors. As stated by the mentioned groups, the opportunity lies with “universities and enterprises working together to improve the quality and capacity of education and the innovation, breadth and competitiveness of our economy”.

Educators have a responsibility to students to provide them with the tools they need, to not only pass exams, but to be ready to succeed in the workplace. This is the motivation underpinning UTS: INSEARCH’s recently-launched High Achievers Leadership Program to connect our top students from China to the Australian employer-base and build work readiness.

The future workplace will be a new frontier, with mobile offices, virtual workplaces and international networks, and a technology-driven future will accelerate the rate of change. The implementation of WIL is a step forward to reducing the skills gap and preparing students for the future workforce, and I commend this collaboration; the winners will be our students, educators, employers and economy.

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