Empowering students for change

FORMER president Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

July 18 marked the centenary of the birth of Mandela, a man who believed in human rights for all.

The South African Society for Co-operative Education’s (Sasce) third Work Integrated Learning (WIL) Africa Conference is pivotal to changing the educational landscape and contributing to Mandela’s legacy.

Richfield Graduate Institute of Technology is a major sponsor of this conference. CEO of Richfield Jay Ramnundlall said that the WIL Africa conference is a premium event on co-operative education and work integrated learning.

The theme of the conference this year is: “WIL: Policy to Implementation”.

The conference will explore WIL successes and challenges, and create solutions, explore integrated perspectives to enhance employment and WIL curriculum issues, including assessment and the decolonisation of education. The conference will showcase best-practice models and allow for the interrogation of WIL issues that impact on employability, ranging from policy to implementation, curriculum design and workplace learning to relevant assessment.

Ramnundlall said: “WIL is an integral part of programme design and development.”

Richfield Graduate Institute of Technology (RGIT) reviews its programmes twice annually at the Curriculum Innovation, Design and Development (CIDD) Forum, where existing programmes are reviewed and new programmes are developed.

The members who comprise CIDD are subject matter specialists from external public and private institutions as well as industry experts who provide specialist knowledge in integrating Richfield’s current and proposed programmes.

The institution ensures that there is strategic alignment between programme design and industry demands. The institution has also introduced Work Readiness Programme (WRP) since 2011 to support WIL.

Ramnundlall is confident on the outcomes of the conference, which are the capacity development of TVET practitioners with respect to the areas of WIL implementation, building an understanding of the legislative environments that impact WIL implementation, sharing perspectives around working partnership models between TVET colleges and the industry, and building an understanding of the preparation needed for students for their transition into the world of work.

The importance of student employability is a global one, hence all voices will contribute towards a successful WIL implementation.

WIL is used as an umbrella term to describe curricular, pedagogic and assessment practices across a range of academic disciplines that integrate formal learning and workplace concerns.

The integration of theory and practice in student learning occur through a range of WIL approaches. The institution has institutionalised WIL via various structures and processes namely; curriculum design and development for WIL, teaching and learning for WIL, assessment for/of WIL, partnerships for WIL, and the management of WIL.

Ramnundlall added: “In order to facilitate WIL, the institution introduced Work Readiness Programme (WRP) in 2011. The life skills for the work readiness module are compulsory and a pre-requisite to the work integrated learning module. Richfield has implemented a compulsory tailor-made Work Readiness Module designed and created for students to ensure that they are adequately equipped for the workplace and empowered for life in general.

“The programme helps students experience a smoother transition from the tertiary space into the workplace. The module raises awareness around critical life skills needed for every student to maximise their potential and performance on a personal, academic and professional level for life. The programme covers aspects such as self-management skills, social and emotional skills.”

Ramnundlall indicated that the institution has also collaborated with many industry partners to facilitate WIL implementation. One such initiative is partnering with IBM Africa.

“IBM’s Africa Skills Initiative is a skills development program that aims to develop the Africa IT ecosystem with world-class skills. The global multinational technology giant, IBM, is partnering with Richfield to develop the next generation of technical talent in Africa and beyond by making Richfield a hub for next-generation market-driven skills.

“Students and staff of Richfield are set to benefit with advanced hands-on skills in a range of information technology courses such as cyber security, mobile application development, business analytics, cloud, big data technologies, Internet of Things, Block Chain, etc. which are crucial to Africa’s social and economic development. These advanced hands-on courses will develop and enhance job market readiness among Richfield students by providing technical expertise that both employers and entrepreneurs require in order to succeed in today’s fast-paced growth market,” Ramnundlall said.

President and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo in Canada, Professor Feridun Hamdullahpur, delivered a lecture on entrepreneurship on the evening of July 17 and was the key-note speaker at the opening of the conference.

The theme of his lecture was “Fostering talent that will lead the new economy”.

Hamdullahpur stressed that businesses have been disrupted by the current wave of technology.

He encouraged institutions of learning to focus on giving industry exposure to students early in their careers, so as to give them a real-life perspective while they are still studying. He indicated that WIL has enabled students to align their knowledge, interests and aspirations to the specific needs of the industry, hence optimising education for the world of work.

Hamdullahpur said that the advent of artificial intelligence has created an urgent need to give students the relevant skills to operate optimally and innovate solutions to problems caused by the disruptions of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

— Supplied.