For students interested in undertaking a Work Integrated Learning placement in their final semester, there are three common types of placements;
- Unpaid placements: these are the most common types of WIL placements. The expectation is that students will work full-time (5 days a week) for 12 weeks so that they will have the opportunity to become familiar with their host organisation and develop sufficient capability so as to demonstrate meaningful placement outcomes. The placements are unpaid so as to allow the university to cover the student’s insurance during the placement, which in turn makes it far more likely that an organisation will be willing to host a student.
Students entering the WIL program must be willing to work on the assumption that their placement will be unpaid, and as such, any part-time work must be work around the WIL placement. In some circumstances an industry host might be supportive of a student doing less than five days a week, with the duration of the placement being proportionately longer.
- Paid Scholarships: There are an ever growing number of paid scholarships becoming available across the various disciplines taught within this school, some of which are only available to ECU students, most of which are open to students from any WA university. It is always important to check if a scholarship opportunity is WIL compatible before applying, so be sure to speak with the School’s WIL coordinator before committing to any scholarship program. Whilst staff in the School of Science make students aware of applicable scholarship opportunities where possible, in most cases it is up to the student to seek out and apply for appropriate scholarships.
The expectation is that students who have not been successful in receiving a paid scholarship just prior to the commencement of their placement semester have indicated their willingness to be placed in an unpaid placement, and if not, then inform the WIL coordinator and course coordinator in appropriate time to be taken off that semesters WIL placement list.
- Work Based WIL: ECU’s WIL policy allows for students to do a WIL placement aligned to their full-time job. In the case of the WIL program run in the School of Science, students who are already working in industry and wish to align a WIL placement to that role, will need to demonstrate that the type and level of work they do is relevant to the degree they are studying. The assessment outcomes for the placement units will be contextualised from a ‘how WIL helped prepare me for industry’ approach to that of ‘how WIL helped me align my industry role to my course discipline knowledge’.
Who Arranges My Placement?
There are a number of ways that students can be placed with an industry host, but the preferred approach (in order of preference) is a follows;
- Apply for and receive a paid industry scholarship. Early in your course get a feel for which types of organisations offer scholarships, the types of roles associated with scholarships and the criteria for applying. Once you successfully receive a scholarship that meets WIL requirements, contact your WIL coordinator and course coordinator for enrolment advice.
- Arrange your own placement. More often than not the best outcomes we are seeing is when students get out into the industry community nice and early and start engaging with industry professionals. Join professional associations, go to their events, meet people, introduce yourself and inform people about what you are doing and what your strengths are. Contact companies directly, or try professional networks such as LinkedIn. Explain in broad terms what the WIL program involves, and that you are seeking to undertake an industry placement in your final semester. If they seem interested, then you can put them in touch with the WIL coordinator(s) for the school, who will explain the processes and expectations of a WIL host and the benefits of hosting a WIL student. If the organisation agrees to be a host, all parties sign off on the required documentation, set a start date and away you go. The best part about making industry contacts and driving your own placement is that you do not need to compete with other students for that placement, it is your placement, locked in ahead of time. It also demonstrates to potential employers that you have initiative, confidence and communication skills.
- Ask the school to arrange your placement. The school has an ever growing number of industry partners eager and willing to take WIL students in unpaid 12 week placements. In most cases the school will introduce a student to a particular industry partner, at which point either a formal interview or an informal chat will finalise the placement. On some occasions a student may end up doing a placement within ECU, such as in the school, in a department of ECU or working within another school, always within a discipline specific role. Ultimately, flexibility is the key to a successful placement process, as any organisation to which students are sent is due to that organisation demonstrating solid student development outcomes.
Will I Get a Job?
This is a very common and very reasonable question, especially for students going out to an industry placement. The short answer to this is ‘it is up to you’. Each semester a varying number of students receive job offers directly from their industry host, regardless of whether that organisations is big or small. In most cases the organisation was probably not thinking of hiring a new staff member, but were so impressed with the potential shown by the WIL student that they were not willing to let that student go.
Ultimately, most host organisations do not directly hire, but the critical nature of WIL is that it can significantly shorten the gap between graduating from university and landing your first job. Feedback from our previous WIL students indicates that not only is the timeframe for job searching reduced, but successful WIL students are more likely to get the job they want as their first job.
What Skills Do I Need?
Interestingly, many students are worried about what specific technical skills they need before going to an industry placement, be it coding languages, lab techniques, chemistry, mathematics etc etc. In reality, for most placements the host organisations are looking the following attributes and capabilities (in no particular order);
- Time management capabilities
- Team work
- Technical capabilities
- Communication skills
- Problem solving / showing initiative
- Self reliance
Are you reliable, approachable, a good communicator, work well with others, have a talent for learning and applying new things? Most industry hosts are looking at the potential a student can demonstrate, alongside their purely technical skills. Most organisations tell us that they expect to spend time training up new staff in terms of demonstrable technical capabilities, but they are less willing to take a risk on a potential employee who has not been able to demonstrate professionalism, communication, reliability and honesty.
What Can I Do To Prepare?
The school advises students to start thinking about WIL as early as possible, and consider the following;
- Treat every unit as a critical learning experience
- Embrace applied technical units, do not avoid them
- Ensure you do units that align to your course’s WIL requirements. If in doubt, speak with your course coordinator and they can let you know which units you can do to ensure your course meets WIL requirements
- Make an appointment to see ECU’s Career and Leadership services – they can help you get your Curriculum Vitae in good order (you will need one) and offer you advice on mentoring or volunteering opportunities, opportunities which will stand you in great stead when looking for a host or a job
- Create an ePortfolio at the beginning of your course and update with each semester's learning outcomes. A well developed and evidenced ePortfolio makes finding a industry host that much easier
- Practice your interview technique
- Practice writing cover letters for industry scholarship and job applications
Who Do I Contact About Participating in the WIL Program?
If you are interested in becoming a WIL student, please contact the School of Science at firstname.lastname@example.org, including your name, student id and course code. From here there are a number of steps involved in undertaking a WIL placement;
- You will be directed to speak with your course coordinator to ensure your course structure and performance meets WIL requirements.
- If you meet WIL eligibility requirements your course coordinator will then ask you to make an appointment to see the WIL coordinator to discuss placement opportunities and to ensure WIL is the right option for you.