Jacqueline Casey
Torrens University Australia

Abstract:

This poster explores the issues associated with Work-Integrated Learning (WIL), the lack of placement opportunities within the interior design industry and an innovative future approach to increase industry and university connections involving non-placement WIL.

Whilst non-placement WIL is not a new phenomenon, the concept of integrating industry practitioners into simulated campus learning environments, is. This approach seeks to provide authentic learning environments on campus, within a framework that enhances teacher and university engagement with industry, and to test if physical placement within industry is necessarily the only pathway to an authentic workplace learning environment.

In 2019, as a precursor to incorporating a pilot program introducing non-placement learning environments, classroom action research was conducted among interior design diploma students in the first year of their Higher Education studies within an Australian University. This research was undertaken to further understand student perceptions of WIL and what they perceive as an authentic workplace experience.

The results of this action research indicated the students’ strong perception of a need for more authentic workplace environments. This environment included time, mentoring and industry practitioner engagement. Without these, students associated WIL as just another design subject. The next step in the project is to develop a program that integrates interior design practitioners as project managers in the classroom, where teachers act in supervisory roles supporting both industry and student learning through scaffolded assessment tasks, thereby transitioning students from classroom learning to workplace practice.

Conference theme: Interior design education currently produces enormous amounts of graduates, leaving placement opportunities hard to find. COVID-19 has heightened this issue, with industry managing new workflows, reduced staff, and projects. This poster proposes a sustainable approach that enables industry to facilitate WIL projects in simulated classroom environments, reducing the ratio of students required to be placed into industry, whilst increasing teacher visibility and supervision across projects. This approach may establish strong connections between universities and industry, increasing student employability, and securing the future of both our students and profession.