Finding the WIL

Delegates at the SATN Conference held at the VUT Science and Technology Park in Sebokeng

Delegates at the SATN Conference held at the VUT Science and Technology Park in Sebokeng

There is a need to develop more partnerships between higher education institutions (HEIs), workplaces and other relevant stakeholders in order for Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) research to be done on the challenges that are posed by increased interaction and collaboration.

This is according to a paper by Dr Joyce Nduna, director of Community Engagement and Work Integrated Learning at Cape Peninsula University of Technology, and member of the SATN WIL task team, presented at the 2015 SATN Conference held in October at the VUT Science and Technology Park in Sebokeng.

The study delved into University of Technology (UOT) practices in relation to the offerings of Entrepreneurship Education as a programme of study, and WIL practices in Entrepreneurship Education.

The findings revealed that the relationship between HEIs and the workplace in the context of Entrepreneurship Education (EE) should be examined at least from three different perspectives: 1) from the viewpoint of student learning and the development of expertise; 2) from the viewpoint of educational institutions and staff; and 3) from the viewpoint of working organisations.

 “There is a need to redefine the aims, goals and ethics of research, and instruction from a new perspective that is rooted in the relationship between society, business enterprises and the academic world,” said Nduna.

Work-Integrated Learning is an approach to career-focused education that includes theoretical forms of learning that are appropriate for technical/professional qualifications, problem-based learning, project-based learning and workplace-based learning.

What distinguishes WIL, according to Nduna, is the emphasis on the integrative aspects of such learning. “WIL could thus be described as an educational approach that aligns academic and workplace practices for the mutual benefit of students and workplaces.”

The SATN WIL task team is of the opinion that if WIL is planned properly and implemented effectively, it will lead to the development of effective EE programmes, multi-stakeholder partnerships and the preparation of students to become entrepreneurs.

The study found that not all UOTs offer EE as a programme of study. Three of the six South African UOTs offer a three-year national diploma in Entrepreneurship/Small Business Management as an academic programme. Two UOTs are planning to offer EE, one at master’s level and one is still deciding which level programme to offer. The last of the six UOTs offers EE as a subject within a course.

“Where EE is offered, WIL does not prepare students for business ownership but rather for employment as business managers,” said Nduna. In fact, the study found that the learning outcomes of WIL are almost the same as those of a general management student.

Further concerns raised by the research study are that EE is offered as a generic programme and is not linked to specific disciplines, and that WIL programmes often place students in big enterprises instead of in small, medium and micro-sized enterprises (SMMEs).

“From the pedagogical viewpoint, WIL is essential as it could be a vehicle for a successful EE programme. If planned properly and implemented effectively it should lead towards preparing students for enterprise,” said Nduna.

The research paper findings suggest that SMMEs should be regarded as effective workplace learning sites for students and therefore all stakeholders, including established entrepreneurs, should be encouraged to partner with HEIs in terms of WIL. “Work-Integrated Learning should in fact be supported by all enterprises, from small to large, across all industries and [they] should participate in the co-operative generation of new knowledge for entrepreneurship education.”

Furthermore, the SATN WIL task team said that WIL research should be guided by the principles that underpin multi-stakeholder partnerships and the research journey undertaken by the partners should be: collaborative, beneficial to all partners, transparent, democratic, transformative, consultative, and co-owned. WIL can assist partners to develop a shared vision, and values that could achieve national aims and interests that will benefit the whole nation.

Nduna said: “There is a need for re-consideration of research policies and procedures for multi-stakeholder partnerships to ensure [that] proper and more effective EE programmes are created to prepare students to be[come] entrepreneurs.”