The impact of work-integrated learning on career planning among business students
New Zealand Association for Cooperative Education
School of Business and Law
Given competitive graduate labour markets and high levels of graduate underemployment and unemployment (Graduate Careers Australia [GCA], 2013), it is increasingly important for students to have a clearly defined career objective and direction in how to successfully achieve it (Segers & Inceoglu, 2012). Despite career management provision evolving far beyond individual counselling and sometimes being embedded in undergraduate curriculum (Watts, 2006), students are often undecided about where they are heading and what pathway to take post-graduation (McKeown & Lindorff, 2011). Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) is one platform which may provide students with clarity on their career objective and the required action to achieve it. WIL can take many forms, such as internships, practicums, fieldwork, industry-based projects and simulations. It is well established as a platform for students to gain a better understanding of the realities of their intended profession (Accenture, 2013) and experiment with their professional identity (Trede et al., 2012). It is also documented as influencing career choice (see Anderson et al., 2012) and assisting students with developing skills in career self-management (see, for example, Pegg et al., 2012; Smith et al., 2009). The study’s research objectives are to (i) examine the influence of WIL on career objectives; (ii) identify key factors which students learned about themselves, in relation to their intended career, during their WIL experience; and (iii) identify which strategies students consider important for improving themselves and their employment prospects.