Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Building collaborative partnerships to promote the development of students’ professional capabilities (#174)

Sonia Ferns 1 , Leoni Russell 2 , Judie Jay 2 , Judith Smith 3
  1. Curtin Teaching and Learning, Curtin University, Bentley, WA, Australia
  2. RMIT University, Melbourne
  3. Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane

Abstract Content 

 This research will culminate in strengthened partnerships between universities, industry and community to improve the WIL experience for students. This in turn benefits employers, business, and industry and contributes to building a sustainable Australian economy for growth and prosperity.

Building collaboration between employers and universities is crucial in growing WIL in Australia. The Statement of Intent signed by ACEN, Universities Australia and Peak Industry bodies (Feb 2014) highlights the importance of partnerships between universities and industry to inform curriculum and enhance employability outcomes for students.  This OLT funded project will develop strategies and resources to support industry contribution and strengthen engagement strategies which enhance the student experience through relevant and engaging learning activities. Mutually beneficial collaborations with industry ensure effective WIL partnerships and the provision of quality WIL experiences for students culminating in the development of work-ready skills. The project builds on the findings and recommendations emerging from the 2014 OLT research project Assessing the impact of Work Integrated Learning (WIL) on student work-readiness.  Consultation with peak industry bodies will be undertaken to connect with industry and inform research findings leading to the development of user-friendly resources that meet the needs of industry partners. 

The project adopts an Action Research methodology as it builds on previous research to identify a need which is clarified and contextualised through stakeholder consultations.  Roundtable discussions and structured interviews will be conducted to establish appropriate solutions.

Recently published reports have highlighted the need for improved partnerships between industry and universities to inform WIL curriculum.  Improved support mechanisms for industry will strengthen partnerships and facilitate the development of students’ professional capabilities through more robust industry feedback on performance. The project outcomes will enhance the capacity of industry to play a pivotal role in the student experience.

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference 

 This showcase will build on findings from contemporary national research compiled by both industry organisations and the Office of Learning and Teaching (OLT) that identify the key challenges, barriers and enablers encountered when brokering and maintaining partnerships between universities and employers. The project is focused on determining the support and resources that will assist industry partners to provide suitable workplace opportunities for students, provide constructive feedback to assist students’ growth and development, and clarify the role of industry partners.     

The focus of the showcase directly aligns to the conference theme Learning for life and work in a complex world as the focus is on engagement strategies with employers and relevant industry bodies. Through consultation with peak industry bodies and industry, strategies for universities to support external host organisations to facilitate students’ learning and development in the workplace will be determined.  A clearer understanding of the characteristics of mutually beneficial partnerships will culminate in an enhanced student experience and improved preparation of graduates for a complex and global workplace. Several of the sub-themes are relevant in the context of this research: Educating graduates to be responsive and adaptable professionals, Assessing, evidencing and evaluating graduate capabilities, and Navigating uncertainly and complexity.