The Australian Collaborative Education Network (ACEN) welcomes the report Career Ready Graduates released this week by University Australia (UA) showcasing the breadth and depth of work integrated learning (WIL) activities across Australian Universities.

The report highlights the benefits of WIL for students and employers and the positive long term impact and contribution of work-ready graduates to the Australian economy. Employers’ satisfaction with the preparedness of graduates to transition from student to employee is a credit to our universities and their industry and community partners.

The UA Report showcases the diversity, reach and innovation of WIL models in Australia and the resultant, strong partnerships forged between universities and industry. Expanding WIL and industry engagement opportunities more broadly across disciplines including STEM areas is also evident from the report. This first national WIL data provides an opportunity for the country, as well as each university, to establish targets and identify areas for further development. A sustainable strategy to enable ongoing data collection for monitoring progress is required.

While the report highlights the great innovation occurring across the sector, ACEN believes strategies for increasing the access by international, Indigenous, regional and remote and low socio economic background students to WIL experiences requires immediate attention. The volume of WIL initiatives is commendable but the attention needs to now focus on the quality of the student and industry WIL experiences. The Australian Higher Education Sector is in need of indicators for the quality assurance of WIL opportunities.

 ACEN is committed to improving access for diverse student cohorts, identifying strategies for assuring the quality of WIL, and supporting and providing incentives and support for industry to engage with universities in providing WIL experiences. ACEN will continue to work collaboratively with the other partners to the National WIL Strategy and advocate for the implementation of more measures outlined in the strategy. The Report released this week is an important step forward in realising the goals of the strategy.