What kind of work do WIL students want to be involved in?

1. Students want work that is real. 

Many students engage in WIL to determine their fit within a potential career or industry and to gain skills, knowledge, and abilities relevant to the workplace context. To achieve these goals, they seek out positions with tasks and responsibilities that are authentic to professional practice.

You can boost the authenticity of your experiences by: 

  • Asking the WIL student to produce deliverables which will actually be used by the organization. 
  • Allowing the WIL student to interact with colleagues, industry practitioners, and/or clients.
  • Providing the WIL student with feedback on their performance.  

2. Students want work that matches their values. 

Values matter to the next generation of student talent. It is critical for you to know your organization’s values and promote them to students. Our Managing the Workforce of the Future (PDF) revealed that Gen Z’s top values are:

Benevolence

Helping friends and family

Self-Direction

Independent thought and management

Hedonism

Having fun

 
If your organization shares these values, make sure you highlight that as part of your recruitment strategy. Consider how you can reference these values in your job descriptions, on your company website, and via on-campus activities.
 

3. Students want work that is related to their major or desired career.

Students know they can gain valuable experience through a wide variety of WIL opportunities, but the perceived value of an opportunity increases significantly when the relationship to their major or desired career is made clear. 

“Students report high-quality experiences when they have learned something meaningful, made a positive contribution, and found connections between the experience, their academic pursuits, and potential future work.” (Drewery et al., 2015)

Students particularly value experiences where they can make a positive contribution to the organization while at the same time developing skills and abilities that will give then an employability edge in the future. The benefit to the employer in helping students make these connections is a more engaged and motivated student. You can support your WIL student by:

  • Talking to them about their academic program, past experiences, and career goals and using this information to tailor your feedback. 
  • Encouraging them to set career-related goals at the beginning of their experience and to track their progress towards those goals.
  • Highlighting the transferable skills they are developing that are relevant to every career, such as communication, problem solving and teamwork.

4. Students want work that challenges them and gives them an opportunity to learn and grow.

When designing your WIL experience, plan training opportunities to support your student's learning and development. For some roles, making time for learning takes intentional effort. Remember that this is a key aspect of the WIL experience and will pay dividends through a highly engaged student who will speak positively about their experience at your organization. You can empower your student to make the most out of learning opportunities by: 

  • Allowing your WIL student to participate in formal and informal training and development opportunities. 
  • Assigning your WIL student projects they can 'own' - meaning they can decide how to manage and complete the work. 
  • Asking your WIL student during one-on-one meetings to bring their ideas forward for new projects, initiatives, or ways of doing things. 
  • Encouraging your WIL student to test their skills and ideas and report back on whether they were successful and what they would do differently next time. 

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