Learning for the workplace and beyond: the challenge of university-community engagement

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Research and Development in Higher Education: Learning for an Unknown Future Vol. 26

July, 2003, 692 pages
Published by
Helen Mathews and Rod McKay
0 90 8557 55 8

For many years the benefits of Work-Based Learning (WBL) experiences in preparing students for work have been understood and valued. A plethora of WBL programmes have been developed and implemented in courses and institutions around the world. Studies have shown benefits of WBL to students including ease of obtaining employment, academic achievement, progression and retention, increased starting salaries, improved career progression and development of generic and professional skills. Until the last decade, the benefits of work-based learning activities to the university have generally been viewed in terms of benefits to the student with other research and curriculum development benefits as secondary effects. New models of university-community engagement acknowledge that the learning institution is doing more than prepare students for employment: it is also preparing them to be fully functioning members of the community. The workplace and perhaps the community for which we are preparing our students will be a different place from our past and present experiences. There will be less emphasis on a single lifetime career, a greater importance of lifelong learning and an increasing reliance on diverse sources of learning and knowledge, beyond the university and beyond the traditional workplace. If it is to adequately equip our students, WBL must change to meet these changing needs. This will require a change of focus at the institution level. Increasingly we will need to be implementing innovative models of WBL that reflect a changed attitude to community engagement. The challenge for the university is twofold: to develop real, effective partnerships with industry, community groups and other organisations based on appreciation of mutual benefit; and, to embrace this wider understanding of engaged scholarship with its requirement for flexibility, adaptiveness and customisation.

Keywords: community, engagement, work

Learning for the workplace and beyond: the challenge of university-community engagement

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Langworthy, A. & Turner, T.