Work Integrated Learning shifts gear
Cooperative Education Unit Set to Improve Student Attachments and Industry Relations
Like most universities, the University of Namibia has recognised the need to strengthen and ensure a higher standard of quality for Work Integrated Learning (WIL) practices. Due to ever changing societal and Global needs, WIL at UNAM will be coordinated from the highest office, effectively moving from the Faculties and Departments, who have managed it in the past, to the Office of the Vice Chancellor.
The best candidate
A Cum Laude UNAM Alumna, Mrs Lovisa Nghipandulwa, has been tasked to carry out this big task. Appointed just a few months ago, she will manage and facilitate Work Integrated Learning across the entire university. “I am delighted to be heading the Cooperative Education Unit”, she elates, yet within the same breath signalled that “there is much work to be done to move from where we are now to a situation where every academic programme will have some form or type of WIL as a component of its curriculum”. Mrs Nghipandulwa qualified that this will lead to better, stronger and coordinated relations with the industries and Government ministries. She mentioned the development of guidelines, capacity development of staff and the geolocation of UNAM Campuses as some of the main hurdles to be crossed on this journey. “It can’t happen overnight, we will have to do it step by step, but we will get there”.
What is Work Integrated Learning?
WIL is a structured, credit bearing method where students are accorded an opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge gained in the classroom under practical settings, simulated environments, industries or communities. For it to work well, there must be cooperation between stakeholders: the University, the Industry and the student, with specified responsibilities for each party and clear learning outcomes. “This process not only enhances learning, but also increases our graduate’s employability and put them in a better position to become innovators and entrepreneurs”, elucidated Mrs Nghipandulwa.
How it will work
The Unit’s function will be in line with the Government Internship Framework which was endorsed by the Office of the Prime Minister in 2005. In the same vein, the National Task Force on Cooperative Education in Namibia, established by the former Minister of Higher Education, Hon. David Namwandi, of which UNAM is a member, provides technical support to institutions of higher learning in the country in this area “Since the political will is already in place, we anticipate good cooperation from government and industries”, assured Nghipandulwa.
Thus far, every UNAM faculty and campus has a Cooperative Education representative who recently underwent a capacity development training in Windhoek. “Such strong support and collaboration from the academic leadership to the unit means that in-house improvements will happen swiftly. We will then work towards improving collaborations with our stakeholders”, she added.
UNAM is affiliated to the World Association on Cooperative education (WACE), an international global body whose mission is to facilitate global dialogues, showcasing of best practices, capacity building and advance cooperative education activities through research. According to Mrs Nghipandulwa, this puts UNAM in a better position to remain competitive and align to international best practices.