Strategic fusion of CDL and WIL: A sustainable fashion enterprise case study

Case Studies

Institution:

RMIT University

Discipline:

  • Creative Industries
  • Other

Model/s of WIL activity:

  • Industry/community based placement
  • Industry/community based projects

Level the activity is delivered:

Course-wide

Strategic fusion of CDL and WIL: A sustainable fashion enterprise case study

CDL interventions built into a WIL project for the Bachelor of Fashion Enterprise-RMIT University.

The Fashion Range Development course partners with the fashion brand Caprice Australia every semester to develop a range of children’s apparel, in response to a brief focused on mass-market appeal and sustainability. Through this industry project, students form teams to undertake the full journey from consumer research to product development, to marketing. The course has implemented a strategic fusion of Career-Development-Learning (CDL) and Work-Integrated-Learning (WIL) activities, contributing to the development of the students’ professional skills and enabling them to identify the soft skills they have developed to support their self-awareness, proactivity, and agency in pursuing career goals, enhancing their employability.

 

 

 

Length of time the WIL activity has been/was in operation

The strategic fusion of WIL projects and Career Development learning for the Fashion Range Development course has been in operation since July 2020 (every semester for 15 weeks).

How does the WIL activity demonstrate good practice and/or innovation?

The Fashion Range Development course is uniquely co-designed by the educators in the Bachelor of Fashion Enterprise, fashion brand Caprice Australia, and RMIT’s CDL team, as a collaboration focused on supporting and developing students’ career readiness. The course combines hands-on experiential learning with weekly industry speakers, mentoring feedback sessions and industry feedback checkpoints, and micro-credentials embedded to build employability skills. Reflective assessment tasks are designed to extract and highlight employability-focused learnings from students. This strategic fusion of WIL and CDL is informed by leading research in Higher Education, particularly to Bridgstock et al.’s (2019) conception of a curriculum in which students engage in processes of reflection to develop their career-identities in an authentic industry-environment, informed and shaped by direct industry knowledge and feedback.

Having undertaken collaborative team-based work on an authentic fashion industry project, students are guided through this process of strategic reflection on their learning, with a focus on implications for their future career. They are also supported to reflect on their own performance during the project, identifying contributions they made and roles they undertook as collaborators and team members. The process culminates in tangible career-assets for students that include ready-to-go job application materials. Having identified three career-relevant skills they developed through the WIL experience, students outline these with reference to specific examples.

These strategic tasks ensures that students’ experience of the course is directly and tangibly relevant to their future in industry, making this innovation unique, sustainable and applicable to any institutional environment (Figure 1).

Figure-1. WIL-CDL Activities

Who benefits from the WIL activity and how?

Students are supported through a high value, authentic industry project towards the construction of industry-ready resumes. Students gain further professional opportunities through the internships and jobs offered by Caprice Australia, supporting the development of engaged alumni and the enhancement of the Bachelor of Fashion Enterprise reputation in the fashion industry. The initiative provides institutional staff with an opportunity to engage with the community of practise and contribute to the sustainable growth of the Fashion Industry. The industry partner benefits from creative, innovative, sustainable, and sometimes disruptive ideas presented by the students, with opportunities to discover talent.

How does the activity embed successful evaluation processes?

Evaluation relies on multiple data sources demonstrating excellent results (see Figure 2):

  • Pre-semester:
  • The industry partner (IP) and the course coordinator (CC) review course objectives and WIL brief alignment (1x semester)
  • In-semester:
  • Student survey measuring technical and soft skills (Week1, 13)
  • IP provides feedback to students (3x semester)
  • Students complete RMIT survey evaluating course (1x semester)
  • Post-semester:
  • The IP and CC review project outcomes and student learnings
  • Students complete RMIT survey measuring the students’ career-readiness stage: Decide, plan, compete or sorted (1x semester)
  • Academic moderation and industry consultation to inform curriculum (1x year)

Figure 2. Evaluation process

What are the broader/longer term impacts for stakeholders?

Fashion and Textiles is among the fastest-growing industries in Australia, contributing about 1.5% to the economy, employing over 489,000 people (mainly female-identifying) and undergoing rapid transformation to align with the global sustainable strategies.

Broad impacts of the initiative are:

  • Preparation of students ready for life and work
  • Internship and job opportunities for domestic and international students every semester with multiple students employed
  • Contributions to shaping the future of the industry, aligned to global sustainable strategies
  • Opportunities for students to solve real-industry challenges
  • Opportunities to involve more industry partners interested in radical innovation towards positive impact

How is the WIL activity integrated into curricula? Include how it incorporates the preparation, implementation and reflection/debriefing phases of WIL.

WIL and CDL activities are scaffolded throughout the degree. In first-year, students develop an industry-standard fashion collection, connect with industry speakers and reflect to recognise and articulate their career-focused learnings.

In second-year, students undertake their WIL project and 1) an academic reflection using DIEP strategy, 2) a reflection on their team-based roles/career-relevant skills aligned to a job/internship application.

In final year, students undertake an advanced WIL project and 1) SWOT analyses pre- and post-project completion, 2) Development of resume summary statement and experience section and 3) Response to competency-based interview questions. A debrief session with industry partners concludes each project.

Describe how the case study is informed by relevant theoretical or empirical literature, research and/or scholarship.

Learning and assessment activities incorporating WIL and CDL support students’ confidence, competence, and capacity to be proactive in managing their careers (Billett, 2015; Jackson, 2018). Career-readiness involves an overall knowledge of industry, professional and personal skills, with industry engagement playing a significant role in connecting students to real-world problems and solutions. Fashion employers insist that graduates need to have more than academic and vocational skills such as work experience and transferable skills to be job-ready. This aligns with broadly held understandings that learning through personal, relevant, and memorable experience creates the most impact on the development of the student (Dunn, 2019; McNeill & Peacock, 2014)

What are the plans for the WIL activity in the future?

Future iterations of the project will explore implementation of Pebble Pad to support students’ development of creative portfolios. Developments will also include a podcast featuring interviews with alumni who have experienced the industry partner project and entered the industry via internships.

Proposed by the industry partner, we are keen to include the retailer to participate in upcoming projects with a view to producing and retailing one of the collections proposed by the student participants. This is among the ways the course’s relationship with Caprice is developing into a deep partnership, facilitating multiple opportunities for further engagement.

References

Billett, S. (2015). Integrating Practice-Based Experiences with Higher Education. In (pp. 1-26). Springer Netherlands. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-7230-3_1

Bridgstock, R., Grant-Iramu, M., & McAlpine, A. (2019). Integrating career development learning into the curriculum: Collaboration with the careers service for employability. Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability, 10(1), 56-72. https://doi.org/10.21153/jtlge2019vol10no1art785

Dunn, M. B. (2019). Early Career Developmental Networks and Professionals’ Knowledge Creation. Journal of management, 45(4), 1343-1371. https://doi.org/10.1177/0149206317702218

Jackson, D. (2018). Developing graduate career readiness in Australia : Shifting from extra-curricular internships to work-integrated learning. International journal of work-integrated learning, 19(1), 23-35.

McNeill, E., & Peacock, L. (2014). The Development and Evaluation of Employability within the Fashion Curriculum: A Case Study. Compass (Eltham), 3(6). https://doi.org/10.21100/compass.v5i9.115

Case Study Team Members

Associate Professor Denise Jackson (ECU)

Dr Carolina Quintero Rodriguez

Lecturer, RMIT University

Associate Professor Denise Jackson (ECU)

Dr Anna Branford

Careers Educator, RMIT University

Associate Professor Denise Jackson (ECU)

Leoni Russell

Capability Lead, Employability and WIL, RMIT University