In my day-to-day career, I work in an industry that loves to uses acronyms as often as possible. From TNE, GE and CQU through to DIAC, TIQ and ELICOS, if it can be shortened, it will be. If any of those seem familiar to you, they should. I work in international education and they all refer to various government agencies, styles of learning and institutions.

One of the newer terms, which is of particular relevance to you as a current student is WIL, or Work Integrated Learning. While it’s not an entirely new concept – there have been several reports and a strategy was released in Australia in 2015 – having attended quite a few conferences during that period, I get the sense that it’s something that the education and employment industries are still trying to work out.

What does this mean to you? Well, it’s actually good news. WIL is a learning style in which the practicalities of a job are applied to your studies, making you job-ready upon graduation. It also contributes to your grade within the subject you’re studying, meaning you improve your employability while edging towards completion of your studies.

Traditionally, this would be through an internship as part of your studies or sometimes “real-world” role-playing – some pharmacy schools now have mock commercial pharmacies – in which you directly apply the knowledge you’ve learnt, but there’s even better news: it’s not just related to hard skills, it’s also soft skills. Some of you may have already started the base of WIL without realising it.

The broadness of the term means that anything that provides you with the necessary skills for employment related to your studies can be classified as WIL. This includes internships and role-playing, but potentially extends to extra-curricular activities like volunteer work or student governance. Did you help run an event while studying a degree in event management? That process helped you to develop organisational and relationship skills. Were you a member of the student council while completing a Bachelor of Political Science? You’ve experienced the dynamics or relationship management and diplomacy.

There is a downside.

Currently, most institutions don’t recognise extra-curricular activities as WIL. While they’re good on your resume – and you should be including all relevant experience on your resume – the work you’re doing outside of your regular studies isn’t going to help you graduate any sooner.

WIL also isn’t readily available at most institutions or in most courses at this time.

Things are looking up, however. Australia’s national strategy on WIL aims to increase opportunities for both international and domestic students through an action plan on eight key areas:

  1. Provide national leadership to expand Work Integrated Learning (WIL)
  2. Clarify government policy and regulatory settings to enable and support growth in WIL
  3. Build support – among students, universities, employers across all sectors and governments – to increase participation in WIL
  4. Ensure the investment in WIL is well targeted and enables sustainable, high quality experiences, stakeholder participation and growth
  5. Develop university resources, processes and systems to grow WIL and engage business and community partners
  6. Build capacity for more employers to participate in WIL
  7. Address equity and access issues to enable students to participate in WIL
  8. Increase WIL opportunities for international students and for domestic students to study off-shore.

Meanwhile, in Canada, the #myWILis campaign is highlighting the benefits of WIL to institutions and students. The opportunities are seemingly endless for everyone involved.

The take-away from this really is that there are already some opportunities for you to gain real-world skills while also meeting the requirements of your education. Unfortunately, you’re really going to have to search for them at this point in time.

If those opportunities aren’t currently available to you, however, you can still highlight how your degree has made you job ready. Successful Graduate can help you walk through those skills and better understand what you should be highlighting to take you from being a good grad to a great grad.

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