Addressing student wellbeing for Work Integrated Learning success
Work Integrated Learning (WIL) students are seeking greater levels of support from universities to reflect the personal and financial stresses associated with their participation, according to a new report.
The research led by Dr Deanna Grant-Smith from Queensland University of Technology and funded by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education informed recommendations to improve WIL student outcomes through the refinement of program policies and practices.
“WIL placements are increasingly prevalent as a means to support students in developing the skills and knowledge to transition from education into professional practice,” Dr Grant-Smith said.
“However, successes in increasing the participation of diverse groups in higher education challenge assumptions regarding students’ extra-study commitments and the potential impacts of these on students’ capacity to participate in WIL activities, particularly unpaid placements.”
Quantitative and qualitative data from surveys and focus groups—including students and administrators—sought to identify the impact that personal and other factors can have on the practicum experience, the impact of the practicum experience on other parts of the student’s life, such as paid work commitments and work-study-life conflicts, and the perceived impact of this on their wellbeing.
“This research indicated WIL participants faced significant financial and emotional pressures which must be addressed in order to support their participation,” Dr Grant-Smith said.
“Acknowledging the potential impact of extra-curricular commitments—such as paid employment, caring responsibilities and other personal factors—on the WIL experience and providing focused support is important for supporting student wellbeing, and increasing the potential for a successful placement. Both WIL administrator and student participants in this research proposed that universities and registration/accreditation bodies need to consider alternatives to unpaid WIL placements or structural changes to placement requirements which limit extended unpaid placements.”
NCSEHE Director Professor Sue Trinidad emphasised the benefits of WIL placements and the importance of reviewing program structures to improve participant outcomes.
“This timely research examines the impact of Work Integrated Learning placements on university students as we know how instrumental WIL programs have been for many students in successfully transitioning from higher education to graduate employment. This report identified the potential challenges facing WIL participants, providing recommendations for the ongoing development of program policies and practices to improve student preparation and support,” Professor Sue Trinidad said.
The report, WIL Wellbeing: Exploring the Impacts of Unpaid Practicum on Student Wellbeing, is available here on the NCSEHE website.
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