Access and equity in work-integrated learning placements: a host organisation perspective
thesisposted on 29.03.2022, 02:06 authored by Jacqueline Ann Mackaway
Despite recognition that work-integrated learning (WIL) is a valuable strategy to prepare graduates for their futures, not all students who want, or need, a WIL placement gain access to one. This thesis examines equitable student access to placements, specifically the role of organisations and their employees. This exploratory study draws on multiple sources of data using a qualitative approach including: (1) analysis of publically available organisational documents focused on diversity and inclusion; (2) interviews with employees from organisations involved in WIL; and (3) theoretically informed concepts of social inclusion/exclusion, organisational culture, gatekeeping and behavioural ethics. These concepts are used throughout the research process to explore and explain the problem, and to find ways to address it (Layder, 2013). Findings show a complex range of interconnected factors and forces at organisational, occupational and individual employee levels that influence decisions about which students to host. Individuals with specific influence over student access are identified as organisational ‘WIL gatekeepers’ and their decisions are shaped by a range of normative, instrumental and situational factors. The notion of inclusion may be affected by a focus on equal opportunity and merit, or shaped by a lived experience of marginalisation by the Gatekeeper. Purposes for WIL that focus on ‘talent spotting’ and getting work done, create expectations about an ‘ideal intern’ and influence which students are included/excluded. The thesis offers a framework to explicate the complexity of organisational and employee intentions and actions in relation to WIL students, and a set of conditions to help organisations build their inclusive WIL culture and capacity. This thesis argues that universities and industry need to work with intentionality and a shared sense of responsibility to remove barriers so the full potential of WIL can be realised for students, employers, the economy and society more broadly, now and into the future.