University and business leaders today announced a comprehensive, national strategy to build the productive capacity of Australia's workforce, improve graduate job prospects and meet the skills needs of employers.
Universities Australia, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Australian Industry Group, the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Collaborative Education Network have collaborated to develop Australia's first ever National Work Integrated Learning Strategy.
Work Integrated Learning (WIL) is about integrating theory with practical work experience in education. While WIL is well established in many areas, like health and teaching, it is under-used in many emerging industries - where jobs and future demand may be greatest.
WIL includes activities such as work placements, internships, shadowing programs and practical projects.
Thousands of employers already partner with universities to provide students with WIL experiences, but until now there has never been an overarching national strategy to guide its future growth.
Chief Executive of Universities Australia, Ms Belinda Robinson, said that student demand for WIL is increasing, often outstripping available opportunities. This strategy is about meeting this demand.
"The strategy provides the opportunity for industry to play a practical role in giving students the skills and experience they need to match employer expectations," Ms Robinson said.
"These invaluable 'hands-on' experiences help put a student's education in context and make a real difference to the skills and capacity they can bring to the workplace.
"Through the implementation of this strategy we can expect more places for students in industry, better prepared graduates and a workforce that is more able to meet the growth needs of industry.
"The Strategy is a both a call for collaboration and the result of it. It is designed to strengthen the partnerships needed to lift employment, productivity and international competitiveness.
"Given the global environment, Australia must leverage our strengths, diversify, develop and compete. It's a challenge, but an exciting one. The Strategy is both strategic and practical. It draws on a strong evidence base and the many excellent examples that already exist," Ms Robinson said.
The value of partnerships and the National WIL Strategy are among the critical issues being discussed at the Universities Australia Higher Education Conference that begins today in Canberra.