This post is co-authored by Franziska Trede and Dimity Wehr.

Our recent WIL Symposium offered an opportunity to explore what makes UTS external partnerships distinctive. We heard from UTS Provost Andrew Parfitt, as well as community groups, the professions and industry partners who articulated their experiences and future vision for partnerships in work integrated learning. 

What makes UTS external partnerships distinctive? 

Setting the scene and context for external partnerships, Andrew Parfitt noted recent government reforms emphasising the close links between learning and work such as the Job-ready Graduates Package. Andrew highlighted the role of Higher Education in preparing learners for work, as well as the impact of university research and the social and economic benefits universities can bring. 

The challenge, he suggested, is not only to offer employment outcomes for undergraduates, but to look to the opportunities for lifelong learning, as well as in specialist areas such as STEM. UTS has much to offer in the form of transdisciplinary electives, entrepreneurship and in-demand technology-related disciplines. Building on these benefits sustained and mature external partnerships and authentic, collaborative relationships.      

WIL Partnerships: external partner voices

In preparation for the Symposium, UTS Internship and Career Support Coordinator Mira Skoric consulted with staff across multiple UTS faculties and interviewed a range of external partners who were invited to respond to a series of questions. Over two weeks, 30-60 minute Zoom calls took place with participants; recordings of these were edited to create ‘External Partners’ Voices’, which was shared at the Symposium.

UTS staff can access the video here. Questions discussed with external partners and themes emerging from their responses are summarised below.

How does student mentoring benefit external partner organisations? 

Mentoring doesn’t only benefit students, but has positive impacts for the organisations involved, too. Our external partners talked about how they had benefited from mentoring or working with students, highlighting common themes:

  • Fresh ideas and perspectives were welcomed from the students 
  • ‘Reverse mentoring’ was common – experiences which benefit partner mentors as much as the students 
  • The students’ energy, enthusiasm, and often fearless confidence was recognised 
  • The students’ curriculum experience in the applied environment is a basis for complex teamwork and shared ideas  

How can we better prepare graduates for future employment? 

External partners were asked to comment on ways that UTS could better prepare potential employees for future work opportunities. Some of their suggestions included:

  • Embedding professional practice throughout the learning journey  
  • Upskilling students to prepare them for remote learning and remote working environments  
  • Ensuring application of teamwork and collaboration (skills & mindset) 
  • The importance of students understanding professional and organisational life – real-world work situations, punctuality, and meeting etiquette, for example 

What does the ideal partnership look like? 

Finally, external partners shared their vision for an ideal partnership with UTS, in the context of the future of work. Their ideas included:

  • Silo-busting! In particular, the need to work together, across faculties, to identify good practice in a systematic way 
  • Exploring strategies for dialogue, collaborations and input from external partners
  • Beginning to increase scope of how we work with external partners – introducing external partners to more departments and faculties which may be of interest 
  • Adopting a proactive approach to projects and opportunities 

Both the university and the body of external partners agree that we need to nurture and sustain these relationships. Continuing to keep the conversation going and flowing between all stakeholders is a challenge. However, events like these that provide a catalyst for better connections, may be a strong step in the right direction. 

Future events on WIL

Please join us for upcoming events on Work Integrated Learning, including tools for threading WIL into your whole of course design with guest speakers Kirsty Kitto and Julieanne Cutrupi, and authentic online learning experiences preparing students to enter the workplace, with Alison McEwen and Chris Jacobs.

Our Hot Topic series culminates in the final FFYE Forum for 2021, ‘Traversing the liminal spaces between education and professional practice: the primacy of belonging and agency’.

You can explore notes in Teams from all sessions at the WIL Symposium, and continue the conversation in the Teams Hot Topic channel on Work Integrated Learning.

Feature image by Van Tay Media on Unsplash 

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