Work-Integrated Learning (WIL), Work-Integrated Education (WIE) and Employment Readiness

The students at the institutions of learning are better advised to join the Work-Integrated Learning, Work-Integrated Education and Employment Readiness Programmes on arrival on campus, i.e. in their first year of studies. They should constantly participate throughout their studies. The programme is fast becoming core to all lines of studies across the globe.

The World Association of Cooperative Education (WACE) is the global organization advocating for Work-Integrated Learning and Work-Integrated Education integration in all degrees and diplomas. The aim is to make transition from the world of learning and education into the world of work seamless.

In South Africa we have the Southern African Society for Cooperative Education (SASCE) made of the academic and industry practitioners. It runs biannual continental conference called WIL Africa, to advance Cooperative Education and Work-Integrated Learning across the continent. SASCE and WACE work together on a number of initiatives, incluidng the annual WACE global conference that is hosted by different member universities.

The kind of programmes conducted under the programme must be relevant to the industries that are likely to absorb the graduates from the institutions of learning. They must be aimed at closing the gap between theory and practice during the whole period of studies.

General activities are organised and held on and off campuses by the Cooperative Education Departments of the Institutions, for example, industry visits, guest lectures by industry practitioners, visits to career fairs and exhibitions, industry specific workshops, seminars and conferences, on the job learning during the vacations, work readiness programmes like how to write curriculum vitae, how to apply for employment, how to conduct job interviews, how to research industry and companies suitable to the graduate’s dream career, etc.

For those institutions that have embraced the programme, partnership with the industry in offering P1 and P2 practical work is a natural practice. The training contributes credit points toward the qualification. The programme follows a well formulated integration of theoretical lectures and learning at the industry.

There are many reasons why the companies would partner with the institutions of learning and participate in the programmes. Among others, the opportunity for the learners to network with the industry practitioners, students given reliable sources of information in their career choices, companies source of recruitment of new talent, an acceptable standard of transitioning from the institutions of learning to the world of work, both the institutions and industry have interest in the graduates that are clear on why they chose the line of career they are following, and placement becomes successful as a result.

The above points bring us to the most important objective, namely employment readiness by the graduates. Employment Readiness Programme is extremely important, and requires special focus. How a graduate arrives at their first place of employment depends on their transition management and readiness level. This is their second toughest transition after transitioning from high school to the university/college.

There are many potential fault lines that require a mentor to assist the graduates to overcome. It is impossible without the guidance of a mentor to overcome this hurdle. It is the first time that the graduate will know if their choice of studies and career was spot on or not. They ought to have mastered the logical transition steps that include the basic tasks like identifying the industry and company to apply for the first employment, choice of the type of job, choosing the career direction, putting together convincing curriculum vitae, prepare for the job interview, shopping for appropriate corporate clothing, etc.

Arrival at the world of work is the beginning of huge personal responsibility. It is the beginning of a long journey into the corporate life. This journey, depending on the readiness level or lack thereof, can be good or bad one. It is at this point that the graduate and his sponsors (family or other funders) would want to confirm return on education investment.

The role of the mentor during the WIL and WIE period cannot be underestimated. It is absolutely necessary in this last mile of the graduate’s educational journey. The mentor should accompany the graduate during this critical phase of their holistic human capital development. The graduate must consider mentorship arrangement as a crucial investment, not an expense. The foundation on which to build corporate life must be solid.