The widening participation agenda has seen an increase in the diversity of students attending university. Concurrently, evidence supports WIL as a strategy for enhancing the acquisition of employability capabilities, facilitating the transition from education to employment, and increasing the likelihood of successful employment outcomes. Ensuring inclusive approaches to provide equitable WIL opportunities for all students challenges traditional university practices. A disconnect exists between the benefits of work-integrated learning and the capacity for diverse student populations to fully access, participate and engage with these opportunities. The project: Building institutional capacity to enhance access, participation and progression in Work Integrated Learning received funding from the OLT in June 2013 and is due for completion in late 2015. The project, led by Queensland University of Technology, aims to explore the key issues that influence the enablers and barriers to the participation and progression of all students in WIL learning activities. Multiple approaches were utilised to inform the development of principles and guidelines including a comprehensive literature review, interviewing experienced WIL practitioners in five Australian universities, surveying current students, and consulting extensively across the university sector. Data collection revealed the importance of policy formation, curriculum design, support services and adequate resourcing to ensure optimal participation for all students. WIL features as a core component of many university programs but frequently lacks flexibility and is not underpinned by principles of inclusive practice, thereby exacerbating disadvantage. The principles and guidelines developed in consultation with WIL educators from a range of disciplines address this important issue of social inclusion.
The notion of inclusive practices in an education context has been on the agenda in excess of 20 years. Yet commitment to recognising and catering to diversity has not been explicitly acknowledged or reflected in policy and processes associated with WIL., The project has drawn attention to this important issue and it is anticipated that the principles and guidelines will emerge as a key enabler in facilitating adoption of inclusive practices across the sector.