Supporting students through WIL

Students should be guided in their learning and helped to navigate any challenges they encounter 8.10. Where students are left to work in an unsupportive environment, or do not have access to appropriate support services or a dedicated supervisor, they can become discouraged from asking questions and trying new tasks, and may question their knowledge and ability to succeed 6.5. The need for support is particularly applicable to placement-type WIL in which students are away from the familiar university environment and supports, but is also true of classroom-based WIL.

Learning from experienced others is a valuable part of WIL and students report that industry mentoring helps them to learn by showing them how a more experienced professional operates and reacts to workplace tasks and situations 3.13, 6.5. Regular feedback from their industry mentor or supervisor can help students learn and develop their skills throughout the WIL experience 8.10. During placements, industry supervisors can create further opportunities for learning from experienced others by helping students to meet other employees 8.10. This might include inviting students to attend meetings, organising a welcome morning tea or giving students the opportunity to work on tasks with others.

Prior to commencing any work-based WIL, students should complete an induction that, at a minimum, introduces them to the organisational structure and includes information on workplace health and safety 1.6. Students should also have the opportunity to discuss their role and the support they may need, with their industry supervisor – it would be valuable to have a member of university staff involved in this discussion. Most organisations will already have induction and support procedures in place for new employees, and the same processes can be followed for students 3.4.

No matter where WIL takes place, students require support from the university. This support may involve:

  • University staff actively monitoring the progress of students completing placements and projects;
  • Students submitting regular blogs, diary entries or reflections while on placement, summarising learning and any challenges encountered;
  • Facilitated opportunities for students to discuss their experience and learning with their peers;
  • Inclusion of university career services in the provision of WIL to guide students on resume preparation, interview techniques and other relevant skills;
  • Referral to other university services, such as English language support, as required;
  • Provision of scholarships, grants and financial support for students engaged in placement-type WIL 9.5, 3.8, 1.6.

The Fair Work Act 2009 protects students from exploitation while participating in WIL. When arranging WIL, it is a good idea to work with your university’s careers service and industry engagement professionals to ensure student rights are protected.

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