Upskill Through WIL

A regional work integrated learning program

The Upskill Through Work Integrated Learning program matched international students with regional organisations in a mutually beneficial work placement supported by customised online training.

Project dates

October 2017-June 2018

Project overview

The Upskill Through Work Integrated Learning (WIL) program brokers and places international students with local businesses by scoping out each organisation’s needs, demonstrating how international students can help fulfil those needs, then matching a specific student to the business to ensure a mutually-beneficial work placement. The project increased access to industry placements for international students at the University of Newcastle (UON). Students from eight countries, across three faculties and all study levels (undergraduate, postgraduate coursework and research higher degree) participated in the program. In addition, two postgraduate international students were employed as project assistants to assist in implementing the project.

Project highlights

The FRANK Team worked closely with students through training programs to increase awareness of topics including Australian workplace culture, communication skills, social and emotional intelligence, leveraging professional experiences, health and safety, and workplace rights. Participating businesses received ongoing support and training to upskill staff members with supervisory, leadership and cross-cultural communication skills through a tailored suite of workshops and online modules by the FRANK Team. Feedback from host organisations demonstrates that cultural change and increased understanding of the international student community is occurring and that the unique benefits of hosting an international student are also becoming apparent.

Project background

Upskill Through WIL, a project devised and initiated by the University of Newcastle and key partner The FRANK Team, has been designed to open up more opportunities for international students to participate in practical industry placements. Work integrated learning incorporates academic learning with practical workplace experience through engagement with industry and community partners. The project has been developed to support international students in regional areas when seeking industry-based experience and employment opportunities. Along with providing relevant workplace and training opportunities for the university’s international students, the mutually beneficial project also acknowledges the value international perspectives bring to organisations. Through the Upskill Through WIL project it was hoped more international students will participate in industry placements, both embedded in University of Newcastle coursework, or offered outside of semester time – it is an opportunity students have deemed to be highly valuable. Funded by Study NSW, with support from the FRANK Team, Australia’s leading training and education company for young people and young professionals, the project aims to empower international students through providing valuable workplace information to increase their confidence working in Australian work environments.

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Project outcomes

There was a significant increase in the number of regionally based international students gaining industry-based experience, both embedded in UON coursework and through extracurricular projects outside of the formal semester study periods. Host organisations were given the opportunity for capacity building and upskilling through tailored online training resources. International students received pre-placement training, either face-to-face or online, to prepare them for success in their placements in Australia and were also given the opportunity to attend a post-placement workshop to leverage their industry experience for future employment. Importantly, there is a growing awareness among key stakeholders of WIL opportunities for international students at UON. This has occurred through the profiling of the BUSN3002 course and promotion of opportunities in social media, staff newsletters and the international student prospectus. This in turn increases the attractiveness of UON and regional NSW as a study destination.

Project deliverables

The major deliverable of this project was the customised online training kit designed and developed through leveraging the expertise of training and education organisation The Frank Team. For students, resources on topics including Australian workplace culture, practical tips to prepare for work placement and communication skills prepare them to engage successfully with industry and equip them with knowledge of Australian workplace culture and necessary employability skills, setting them up for success now and into the future. For hosts, these staff development training resources cover topics such as ‘Working Across Generations’ and ‘Cultural Intelligence’, and increase the capacity to host international students in industry placement beyond the project.  One host organisation commented 'we learnt about the challenges facing international students and their journey to receive education in a foreign country. We gained a greater respect for the cultural challenges.' The robust suite of resources were a relatively low-cost investment which can now be used beyond the project. The resources also ensure the scalability of the initiative, with dissemination to other faculties, education providers and to new hosts.

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Challenges and recommendations

UON will continue to roll out the online training resources with key partners and encourage more organisations and businesses in the Hunter to partner with the university in supporting international students to have work experience opportunities. “Building the skill capacity of our international students and our host organisations is the key to making this WIL and work experience model sustainable in the future,” Ms Miles, Manager of International Engagement at UON, said. “We ultimately hope organisations reciprocate by acknowledging the value international perspectives bring to their business and offering students employment opportunities as a result.”

Further information

Lauren Miles, Manager, International Engagement
University of Newcastle
lauren.miles@newcastle.edu.au