National strategy to prepare students for work life

University and business leaders today announced a national strategy to improve graduate job prospects and meet the skills needs of employers.

Universities Australia, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Australian Industry Group (Ai Group), the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Collaborative Education Network have collaborated to develop the National Work Integrated Learning Strategy (WIL).

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.

Jenny Lambert, ACCI Director of Employment, Education and Training, said in a statement, “The most important outcome students want from their university qualification is a job. Experience in a workplace provides them with role-specific skills, improved employability and industry contacts that will assist them in securing a relevant position.

“A work placement needs to be a win-win for the business and the student. The projects relevant to both depend on the courses and the businesses, but include target market analysis, survey work and environmental scans.

Ai Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox said research by his organisation has shown employers have concerns about the problem solving, teamwork and communication skills of graduates.

“The Strategy also addresses the STEM skills agenda in Australia, so that science, technology, engineering and maths skills are more productively utilised in the workforce when applied during study,” he said in a statement.