For businesses and other organizations to be productive, there is the need to have extensive knowledge of what they are dealing with. This will enable them to formulate future strategies on how they will survive in the market. As a result, society and particularly workplaces have become very competitive in relation to education. This is due to the fact that work is increasingly becoming knowledge-based. This means that it is paramount for firms to enhance their human capital in order to achieve a sustainable organization performance. Knowledge workers are employees whose significant job resource is their key value-creation duty at workplaces. To increase productivity of knowledge workers, enhancement of their key competencies and learning should be done directly at the work places. Work-integrated learning is aimed at fostering this through knowledge transfer at work station where the leaner has the opportunity to apply what is learned directly in their duties.
The Concept of Work-Integrated Learning
Work-integrated learning is mainly focused on workers’ knowledge, their responsibilities and individual competencies in the work environment as the relevant areas to draw the learning objectives and resources (Fleming & Eames, 2005, p. 26). The core objective of work-integrated learning is to ensure that individuals are able to work in a self directed manner. This is easily achieved since the process goes through a number of steps in presenting knowledge to the employees. An easy access model with relevant education artefacts are made available. In addition, the well experienced individuals are used in transferring the knowledge in the work environment. This offers learners the freedom to learn and work by themselves resulting into effective internalisation of the concepts acquired (Fleming & Eames, 2005, p. 26).
From the above precepts, work-integrated learning can simply be defined as the process through which learning is directed and supported by experienced workers. The ultimate result is that theoretical and practical principles are integrated in the working environment (Bates, 2003, p. 303). This means that integration is the basic element of work-integrated learning. In order to enhance learning, the entire process integrates the concept of student centred mode of knowledge delivery. Work integrated learning process is purposeful and well ordered. In addition, it has been accredited by many institutions of higher learning as an effective tool for imparting knowledge to student as well as giving them the required experience.
Professional Engineering Placement
Universities, businesses and other non-business organizations are currently working in cooperation to ensure that the students graduating from learning institutions are competent. As a result, these students are ready to face the challenges in the work modern work environment which is increasingly becoming knowledge based (Bates, 2003, p. 303). To address the demands of the knowledge based economy, some programs have been established to address this. For instance, scholarships are given to students through the Professional Engineering Placement (PEPs) program. The PEPs scholarships enable students to be sent to engineering firms where they undergo intense training thus acquiring work experience. The effect is their theoretical skills are reinforced (Fleming & Eames, 2005, p. 26). Eligible participants in these programs are engineering students who are in their final year in universities.
Information technology students also have a similar program commonly referred to as the PIPS. This program enables these students to further their studies and hence experience (Bates, 2003, p. 303). Nonetheless PEPs and PIPS should not be considered as a certification for professional engineering for one to be considered qualified for professional practice. Under the PEPS and PIPS programs, both engineering and information technology students are able enrol themselves for work-integrated learning programs. These programs are usually designed to last for 6 months during which the students spend their time in a real working environment. Some of the institutions considered are the well established industries where they gain practical skill (Bates, 2003, p. 303). These approaches have been effective and have led to excellence awards being presented to both the universities applying this concept and their students.
The placements can be undertaken in private firms, public companies or international research organizations. However, the choice of organisation depends on the engineering technology being offered. Many students also benefited placements outside the country (Blair et al, 2004, p. 333). Flexibility has been integrated in these programs thus impressing the participating firms. As a result, a large number of firms are appreciating this concept. The experience gained presents the students with genuine professional practical experience. On the other hand, firms get an opportunity to evaluate and monitor the students’ performance as a prospective employee under dependable working environment (Blair et al, 2004, p. 333). The program suits students who are completing their studies. This is due to the fact that they have acquired a lot of theoretical knowledge and are preparing to enter the job market. Their main motivation of work-integrated learning is the associated technical challenge (Fleming & Eames, 2005, p. 26).
Theory and Practice
There are several theories that have been advanced to explain how the desired outcomes are achieved through work-integrated learning design. Despite the attempts, experiential theory has been very triumphant and offers the best explanation to the process. Basically, work-based models of learning utilize the tacit and explicit forms of communication to impart knowledge. The modes of learning utilized include the conceptualization and experimentation modes (Blair et al, 2004, p. 333). I was able to learn a lot of skills in the process and this is because I has an opportunity to reflect what I had studied in class and applied it at the industry.
Conceptualization mode achieves the goal through the process of reflection while in experimentation mode; the outcomes are associated with the experience gained. With time I realized that I was more acquainted with the processes such that I could work on my own without supervision. Furthermore I was able to experiment with some tools to achieve workable outcomes (Fleming & Eames, 2005, p. 26).
The general outcomes to the society where applied and action science is propagated through action learning is increased productivity(Fleming & Eames, 2005, p. 28). While I enjoyed the freedom of working without supervision, I was also able to experiment with processes that I was learning. As a result, I realized that with more practice I was grasping all the steps in certain procedures and corrected them. In addition, practical learning impacted me greatly since I was able to memorize and permanently understand basics and even simple procedures that I carried out independently while in the industry.
The basis of this theory is that people learn new education concepts through experience. Though this concept is not very new to the world, its underpinning to apply work experience is relatively recent (Blair et al, 2004, p. 333). For better application of the process, there are some foundations that the interpretation and subsequent application of the theory is based. These propositions have actions that would follow clearly described parallel to them (Fleming & Eames, 2005, p. 29).
Experiential theory asserts that learning is a process and it should not be conceived by looking at the outcomes (Blair et al, 2004, p. 333). This means the process of learning is continuously modified with experience. I found this to be very true from what I went through in the industry. During the normal working, machines function properly and production is efficient.However, in the event of a problem that causes a hitch, things can go haywire. As an armature I panicked and did not know what to do next. From this problem, I had to read more about it after watching the expert revert the situation back to normal and explaining to me how to react in case that happened again.
Learning at work is considered a continuous process that is enhanced through experience. As a student tests and examines the jobs being done, this process integrates new skills to what was previously known about in relation to a particular concept (Fleming & Eames, 2005, p. 30). Basically I got to the firm with a lot of theoretical knowledge but no experience. So most of the things that I had to do I relied on what I had learned in college. This helped to grasp new and practical skills fast. I could easily connect the real work with what had been explained theoretically in class.
Experiential as a holistic approach to learning was very critical to my understanding of the working environment. Basically education requires total interaction between individuals and the world around them. Class work had been just virtual experience of what would be expected to take place in real environment. Work-integrated learning enables an individual to experience working in real life situation and interact with experienced workers (Blair et al, 2004, p. 333). This was a great achievement since I was able to exercise all the aspects of learning in an authentic work environment.
My personal perspectives were subjected to the reality. As a result I had to adopt and embrace what exists in the job environment. In addition, I got to understand that though I could not separate myself from my personal discernment or the work and how it was supposed to be done, I could subject them to critical thinking.Despite the fact that, everyone discovers issues through experiences, none of us at all times learns from that (Ley et al, 32). This is why I found myself repeating some mistakes regardless of the experience. On the whole the knowledge that I was gaining was from three sources namely; prepositional, practical and experiential.
Propositional knowledge was obtained from theory in college and it included theories, facts, presumptions, statements and propositions (Ley et al, 32). Practical knowledge that I obtained was made possible by interpersonal skills, that enabled acquisition and discovering how and finally I got experiential knowledge through personal reflection, subjective thinking and affective scrutiny that was made possible through the direct encounter.
The Work-Integrated Learning Dimensions
Internship experience obtained through this process has been an elemental in advancing the education sector in that student who graduate are recognized in the job market (Kelloway & Barling, 2000, p. 287). There are three dimensions through which work-integrated learning is achieved. These include teaching process, development through counselling and process of marketing.
In relation to marketing, it’s important to consider two P’s for the process to be efficient. The first P is the product which refers to colleges which have been very effective in making consultations with the relevant occupational industries. This has allowed adequate representation of stakeholder in the process of learning. Not only is this vital but it’s also relevant in ensuring a competitive society (Kelloway & Barling, 2000, p. 289).
Teaching dimension takes various elements and includes designing a program that would accommodate work-integrated learning arrangements. This involves orientation to the workplace where the desired knowledge is and then assigning a workplace mentor (Kelloway & Barling, 2000, p. 287). The mentor guided me in everything I was doing at the job until he was confident I could do it on my own. He also was my evaluator. Counselling was a very important part in the entire process. This entailed the help of expert in guiding me on what was relevant for and helping me to make decision. Basically engineering as a profession needs good communications skills, technical skills, life skills and assertiveness (Ley et al, 42). Since I could not achieve this on my own, work-integrated learning provided a big opportunity for me to learn and practice these concepts. This encounter was more than a career guidance class or class work. I was well prepared to get to the job market knowing exactly what I want to do.
Importance of WIL
The overall purpose of the WIL program is to ensure that students attain built-in experience at workplace that is relevant to their study. Many nations have appreciated this strategy and are adopting it in their curriculum. In the developing world, this is expected to prepare the future workforce from an early stage to ensure economic sustainability attributed to high quality employees that are prepared this way. The benefits of the program are threefold (Kelloway & Barling, 2000, p. 291). The beneficiaries are the students, higher learning institutions and the potential employers.
As a student and a potential employee, I was able to enhance my soft and hard skills as a consequence of the real work duties in the industry.I also increased my appreciation of the relationship that theoretical knowledge had with the practical work. I also gained knowledge on how to manoeuvre in the job market.
Employers benefit from the PEPS by being able to identify prospective and future employees. These programs also benefits the employers by creating partnerships that are very important for future reciprocated benefits (Kelloway & Barling, 2000, p. 292). The higher learning institutions on the other hand are able to improve their reputation as they are able to release to the market very competent workers.
The dearth of employment and increased competition in the job market demands that a process of increasing knowledge workers be designed. WIL has been very effective in relation to this. Nonetheless the cooperation between higher institutions of learning and the future employers has to be enhanced and upgraded on a constant basis. This will offer practical progress towards achieving a quality knowledge-based economy. A constructive relationship would indeed end up in a perfect match between the industries’ human resource demand and the workers’ qualifications.
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