Engaging industry

Suggestions for connecting with new industry partners
If you are just getting started with WIL, identifying new industry partners can seem challenging. Think about who you know already and draw upon your existing contacts.

  • Do you have connections with government departments or local organisations through your research?
  • Alumni are often enthusiastic about reconnecting with their university in a meaningful way. Can you reach out to your university’s alumni department, or even your own former students who may be in industry? 3.8
  • Are there relevant professional bodies you can approach? 2.2
  • For example, the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) offers networking opportunities and vacation research scholarships.
  • Have you connected with your university’s careers centre, or your faculty’s WIL or industry engagement specialists? Who can they suggest?

Involving industry partners in the design and delivery of WIL is vital. It is equally vital to negotiate how they might best be involved to ensure that the objectives and constraints of all stakeholders and taken into account. Successful WIL is about collaboration and partnership 2.3.
 
Different organisations will have different abilities to engage in work-integrated learning. While some organisations may be able to provide internships and placement opportunities on an ongoing basis, others may not have the capacity for this and may prefer to present a seminar or a case study. Employers want to be involved in a variety of ways, including in student preparation, mentoring and assessment design 2.2. It is important to take the time to understand how each industry partner wants to be involved, and their capacity and constraints so you can work together to create meaningful opportunities for students.
 
Not knowing how to engage with WIL or who to contact about WIL can prevent employers from getting involved with WIL 2.5. Conversely, support from, and good personal links with, universities make it easier for employers to engage with WIL. Once contact is established, industry partners want clear information about the roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder, the structure of the course, what they can reasonably expect from students and what students expect of them 2.2.
 
Things to consider

  • The most suitable timeline for the industry partner may not line up with the university semester. Consider whether there are options for reduced or extended placements, or run outside of semester 2.2, 2.4 .
  • It may be better to start with a small commitment – the relationship will grow over time 2.4 .
  • Link it to what they are already doing. All organisations will have processes for inducting and supporting new employees, and providing performance feedback to their employees. These can be adapted for use with students.
  • Highlight the benefits for the industry partner and the contributions students can make to their business. Avoid characterising students as ‘free labour’ though – it minimises the valuable contribution they can make and can result in students being treated as general dogsbodies, and not having a meaningful WIL experience.

 
Resources to share with new and potential partners

A value proposition for industry
“WIL has been found to be of considerable benefit and value to employers in a number of ways:

  • as a means of identifying and recruiting new staff and developing future talent for a company’s workforce
  • as a resource for undertaking value-added business-related projects
  • as an opportunity to fulfil corporate citizen obligations and give back to the community
  • as a way to help to increase the broader industry workforce
  • as a source of fresh ideas for the organisation and a means to access new technologies or research
  • as a means to develop and strengthen industry and university partnerships.”

Credit: Atkinson, Misko and Stanwick (2015)

 

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