Students embark on improved Work Integrated Learning experience

Work Integrated Learning (WIL) is the practical application of skills learnt in a course back at the workplace and has been part of both the Higher Education certificate courses at the College for the last 20 years. Within each certificate course, WIL is scheduled between April and July each year after the first semester exams and before commencement of the second semester classes.

The Park’s section ranger and interpretive centre coordinator (on the left) with Dr. Yolanda Pretorius from SAWC (middle) and Hazel (student from the 2017 Higher Class) and Carl (student from the 2019 Higher Class) (to the right) during a work place visit in May 2019 at the Baviaanskloof World Heritage Park (managed by ECPTA).

The question is often revisited on whether it is useful and whether it contributes significantly to the student’s learning experience. Over the years the Natural Resource Management Department has made an effort to assess and bolster WIL and to improve the experience as much as possible. This has been done through annual workplace visits during which time both students, their mentors and managers were interviewed about their experience with WIL.

The problem areas identified during these visits range from lack of resources to the absence of suitable mentorship, especially when students are out in the field. However, the most frequently mentioned challenge from the student’s perspective was the lack of understanding by their superiors regarding what WIL was about and what was required from the workplace in order for the students to complete their WIL assignments.

Subsequent to these findings, an effort was made to engage more with supervisors on the ground, to explain the significance of WIL to the respective managers and to better inform organisations about the resources and support required during WIL. During the most recent visit in May 2019, to students based in the Cape region, the fruits of these efforts were visible with students from the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA) being supported and mentored much more positively than in 2018.

Here we would also like to thank organizations such as SANParks, African Parks and ECPTA for not only continuously trying to equip and improve their staff by sending them for training in Higher Education at the College but also for working with the College during training to optimize the results.

We look forward to engaging with all the conservation agencies and organisations who send their staff to us for training so that this can be a positive experience all round, with both the student and organisation benefitting from the WIL component.