A brief history of Work-integrated Learning

Work-integrated Learning (WIL) has parallels with learning by doing, learning from masters, learning through experience. In order to be part of your tertiary education, your WIL experience must be directly related to your degree and studies.

The range of activities encompassed by WIL is large. It includes;

The first modern tertiary work experience programme was called Co-operative Education (Co-op). It was initiated at the University of Cincinatti in 1906 by Professor Herman Schneider (later Dean of Engineering and University President). Professor Schneider formed the opinion that many professional skills and concepts could not be adequately taught in the lecture theatre. In the face of significant institutional resistance, he developed a course where education was a co-operative venture between engineering employers and engineering academics. This co-operative education in practice alternated a trimester of teaching with a trimester of paid work in the work place. While it turns a US standard four year degree into a five year degree, it is popular with both employers and students. Graduates are in high demand due to accumulating 2 years of relevant and varied work experience and the students can graduate without any student debt.

Many universities today follow this model. For example, the largest is the University of Waterloo in Canada with in excess of 20,000 students enrolled in co-op programs across a wide range of disciplines.

Today WIL encompasses co-op and reflects the wide variety of approaches taken by universities to incorporate industry experience and contact into tertiary education.

Within NZ, work experience as part of your degree is typically optional. The exception has been where the involvement of professional bodies has made it mandatory for some disciplines. The obvious example is Engineering, however there are also mandatory work experience requirements for tertiary education in (for example) Teaching, Nursing, Medicine and Surgery.