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Exploring benefits of work-integrated learning for the employer and the student: a case study of Bachelor of Commerce student placement at a Municipality.

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Date

2023

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Abstract

The study explores the benefits of work-integrated learning (WIL) for the employer and B. Com students placed at a municipality. WIL is intended to provide students with skills that will make them marketable to employers, afford them an opportunity to practise under supervision and gain experience to supplement their qualifications and general work experience. The question is, is the WIL’s intended purpose fulfilled for the benefit of both parties, namely, the employer and interns? The study focuses on exploring the perceptions of students of the WIL experience in the Municipality. It examines if and how the Municipality enables students to acquire qualification-relevant experience and explores the extent to which mentors contribute towards the acquisition of new knowledge and the understanding of WIL. Previous studies failed to adequately address this issue, yet it is important to do such an exploration in order to review current policy for the organisation to conform to best practices. In terms of the qualitative approach used to conduct this case study, an interview schedule was prepared to conduct semi-structured interviews for the interns with the aim of collecting descriptive information. A questionnaire was used within mentors to record their experiences of the WIL programme. The study adopted Kolb’s experiential learning theory to theorise the findings that revealed that; WIL placement involved interns in understanding new tasks in the workplace and interns found it meaningful since it managed to close learning gaps between theory and practice. This was a result of appropriate placement of each intern. Mentors effectively inducted interns as they deemed workplace readiness an important factor and they valued the association between practical work and theory. Students managed to execute relevant tasks in compliance with mandatory legislation even though they were not rotated amongst other Finance sections but work scope and knowledge growth were noted. It also emerged that mentors effectively mentored students regardless of some inconsistency, especially when providing feedback to interns. Based on the findings, it is concluded that interns were relevantly exposed and showed evidence of achieving the four stages of Kolb’s learning cycle. Based on the findings, it was therefore recommended that mentors are trained for the standard implementation of the WIL programme, and they are involved in advisory committees. Lastly, an adequate quality management process must be developed for successful implementation of the WIL programme.

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Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.

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