Where there’s a WIL there’s a… relevance

The Accord Final Report brought many recommendations, but if you dig beneath the detail there is a fundamental assumption we have accepted, and not discussed much.

That is: the pre-eminent value of the tertiary sector is to create the workforce of the future. No “go and study arts because you like it,” no “choose pure mathematics because pure research underpins the heartbeat of the nation’s economy.” No, first and foremost the sector’s job over the next couple of decades is to train up millions of graduates to meet our future societal needs.

That’s why this week’s piece from the University of Sydney’s Rachael Hains-Wesson and University of Auckland’s Patricia Lucas, making the case for WIL to be its own discipline, is so important.

You can choose which side of the fence you land on in terms of the disciplinary status of WIL, but you simply can’t argue that the way we prepare graduates for future employment through programs such as WIL is not core business.

Nor can you argue that the same old regimen of internships, sandwich-years and guest lectures from the same old bunch of employers is going to set you up for the future.

For years, employers have been telling market researchers including myself a consistent set of concerns, relating to the lack of knowledge that graduates emerge with. Some universities bridge that gap better than others, but there is an ongoing, overwhelming hope that programs like WIL may evolve and deliver better outcomes in future.

That’s why this issue needs to be front and centre for universities moving forward. Regardless of which parts of the Accord Final Report that Minister Claire decides to implement first, institutions are invited (subtext read: required) to reimagine and grow their relationships with employers and industry.



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