The global competitive landscape has imposed pressures on businesses, which want to hire competent and experienced workers to help them thrive in an ever-increasing competitive environment (Borg, Scott-Young & Turner, 2019). This has led to one of the central challenges for higher education providers: to plan and deliver curricula that produces work-ready graduates (Billett, 2009; Trede, 2012). To bridge the experience gap and drive the quality of education, Melbourne Polytechnic (MP) has wholeheartedly embraced reciprocal partnerships with industry to secure work-integrated learning placements for students as an element of their studies. MP’s strategic student-centred targets involve embedding authentic professional experiences in the curriculum to replicate and simulate workplace challenges, where students work with real SMEs to develop solutions to complex business issues.
The overall results are exceptionally positive, the initiative has allowed the institution to strengthen engagement with the industry, add value to the curriculum and incorporate the students’ preparation for the workforce into their academic experience. The benefits these partnerships have yielded are supported with tangible evidence of the students’ increased employability. Now the goal is to ensure continued collaboration between the institution and SMEs, and to pay close attention to the changing needs of businesses in order to continue to align the graduate capabilities with the needs of the industry.