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There is a perceived gap between traditional university education and a readiness to enter the workforce which is often addressed by the inclusion of a work-based learning experience within the undergraduate education process. The intention of the curriculum designers is that the work placement experience will provide learners with an opportunity to develop their employability skills and to apply the knowledge that they have gained within a practice setting. This practice-focused paper summarises the work conducted under the REAP (Roadmap for Employment-Academic Partnerships) project, illustrating existing practice in work placement and gathering input and experiences from higher education staff and employers. The aim of the work was to explore practice in work placement in undergraduate programmes in Ireland and to develop an outline guide to support good practice. The importance of the work placement interaction in contributing to the development of a broader more sustainable relationship is considered briefly. REAP is a collaborative project funded by the HEA (Higher Education Authority), involving a number of Higher Education institutions in Ireland aimed at developing systems and structures which support good practice in engagement interactions between higher education and enterprise.
The research into work placement practice was undertaken in a number of ways. Higher education staff were invited to partake in seminars and workshops. The employers participated mainly by way of a survey with some in-depth interviews providing deeper insights into work placement and other potential interactions.
The research allowed a generalised view of the work placement process to be developed and a series of stages with associated practice recommendations were identified. The importance of engagement with the employer before, during and after the placement process was highlighted and the role of the employer as a partner in the learning development underlined.
Sheridan, I. and Linehan, M. A Partnership Approach to Work Placement in Higher Education. 2013.