4 Reasons to Consider a Work Integrated Learning Program
By Arijit Banerjee
Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and robotic process automation (RPA) are fueling a dramatic shift in the job market across industries. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), nearly half of all workers will need to significantly adapt to the new work environment. This shift impacts both employers and employees equally as the jobs of the future will be more hybrid in nature, requiring a combination of hard and soft skills. Employers will need to make massive investments in upskilling employees in addition to hiring employees with relevant skill sets. Professionals, on the other hand, have the unique opportunity to boost their career growth or script a complete career makeover.
One way for employers to upskill workers and employees to capitalize on the opportunity is to tap into a Work Integrated learning (WIL) program - a program that integrates academic learning of a discipline with its practical application in the workplace. Here’s how.
Upskilling without career break
Building a future-ready workforce is a top competitive priority for organizations across industries today. The WIL model of training helps business leaders upskill employees without disrupting their current work engagement. In the IT sector, many organizations like Samsung, SAP Labs and Wipro are embracing WIL programs. Every year Samsung sponsors 35 of its employees to pursue M-Tech in software systems. IT leaders like Wipro are also extending their WIL program to students to launch their careers in IT.
The banking industry is another sector slated for a complete overhaul by 2022. According to FICCI-NASSCOM and EY- Future of Jobs- report, 15%-20% of Indian workforce in the BFSI sector will be deployed in new jobs related to big data, business intelligence, and analytics in the next five years. Creating access to a relevant WILP can help banks future-proof their workforce. Given that many employees cannot afford to break away from work to venture into full time skill upgradation, WILP allows employers to upgrade their workforce’s skills while still keeping their day jobs.
Relevant learning content and networking with industry experts
One advantage of the WIL program is that it taps into the clarity that learners have about their career roadmap. This clarity helps in creating focused learning interventions aligned to the roadmap of the participant. In short, it helps participants immerse themselves in relevant content as well as experiences required for career development such as networking and forging industry connections. WIL sessions are a great way for employees to connect with professionals as instruction is often jointly imparted by the academic subject coordinator as well as an industry supervisor. A LinkedIn global survey points out that 80% of professionals consider ‘networking’ to be an important tool for career advancement.
Experiential learning through application of theoretical concepts
Often, full-time classroom learners do not have an opportunity to apply the knowledge they have acquired in a real world setting. In the case of WIL programs, by virtue of being able to continue with their job, learners can continuously practice the theoretical concepts in real-world scenarios - making knowledge acquisition more experiential. This integration of theory with professional practice leads to better learning outcomes for both employers and employees.
For instance, the intended outcome of the WIL program offered by Samsung is to offer its employees an opportunity to synergize theory with practice on a sustained basis. The curriculum of the course is aligned with Samsung’s focus on research and skill-development in niche areas such as Machine Learning (ML), cloud computing, data mining, data structure and algorithms design, and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Superior learning outcomes with work-related insights and vice versa
Organizations can fuel their next level of growth with the upgraded skills employees acquire through WIL program. At Samsung, for example, employees following their WIL skill building have been deployed on the company’s futuristic mobile and consumer electronics projects. At the same time, participating in a WIL program creates visibility into two different worlds for the learner – the world of business as well as the realm of skill acquisition. Such insights can be used in identifying skills that have maximum demand and thereby optimize learning outcomes. As per a survey by Clover Infotech, 94% of professionals feel there is a lack of integration between work related insights and learning. A WIL program clearly offsets this.
Given its potential, many consider WIL programs the ‘disruptor’ in the learning industry. Learning is a major focus area for today’s talent, especially millennials. They look for organizations that sponsor their ‘back to school’ trips in meaningful ways. Companies that offer access to WIL programs will be better positioned to meet this growing demand, and in turn, attract the right-fit talent.