Globally, Work Integrated Learning (WIL) is an umbrella term used to describe any programme designed to integrate classroom theoretical knowledge with authentic practice in the workplace.
The main goal of WIL is to align training to industry needs and prepare learners for the world of work. Specifically, WIL helps trainees to learn from real workplaces through industry placements and exposes participants to current technology, processes and systems in the industry.
WIL also creates an opportunity for trainees to update their knowledge and skills in line with industry practices. WIL varies in length based on purpose.
Across the world, WIL assumes different names: apprenticeship, in-service training, return-to-work, on-the-job training, job attachment or industry placement. In the Namibian TVET sector terms such as WIL, apprenticeship and job attachment commonly used, depending on settings.
Although the name differs across the globe, the purpose of the practice remains the same.
Every year TVET centres send hundreds of trainees into the labour market to prepare them for the world of work. The effectiveness of such placements is always questionable.
Anecdotal evidence shows that the following seven factors prevent the successful implementation of the job attachment curriculum in the labour market in Namibia.
To mentor is to influence, guide, or direct someone about what one is expected to learn or know.
Mentors help to grow the personality and professional characteristics of trainees.
Organisational experts, however, claim that how much a trainee learns from any internship programme depends on the behaviour and attitude of the mentor.
In other words, a helpful mentor creates a productive internship experience for the trainee, while an unhelpful mentor renders the job attachment programme useless.
Current trainee self-evaluation reports suggest that many interns are dissatisfied with their job attachment programme.
Interns complain about three unprofessional behaviours of their mentors: one, mentors are most of the time absent to guide and direct trainees whenever the need arises; two, some mentors ignore trainees’ requests for assistance during work-related encounters; and three, some mentors do not cooperate with trainees on any task - leaving trainees isolated and frustrated.
Inadequate time for practice
Time is a tool created for human beings to manage their affairs. It is expected that human beings manage time, but in most cases, human beings allow time to manage their affairs.
This reversed process of managing time is bad for any and every business. Although trainees complain that they reach their workplaces late because of financial difficulties, the main concern is that they have limited time to complete their job attachment curriculum.
Trainees complain that most industries are unable to develop a balanced programme that interns must complete for the duration of their internship. This challenge, trainees argue, undermines the key objective of the job attachment programme.
Allocation of trivial work
As stated above, job attachment helps trainees to acquire personal and professional skills required in the job market.
Trainees complain, however, that for the duration of their job attachment, industry supervisors assign them activities of little value.
Responses from self-reported evaluations confirm that this is one of the commonest job attachment challenges that most trainees face.
Some interns claim that they are asked to prepare coffee for their mentors instead of concentrating on the job attachment curriculum. Others claim that they are instructed to perform office errands that are irrelevant to their professional growth.
One may, however, observe that while office errands may be part of trainees’ personal growth, such activities become questionable if they exceed seventy per cent of trainees’ internship programme.
Trainees regard this practice as unethical and dishonourable to their future competence in the workplace.
Misplacement of trainees
The main reason organisations send trainees for an internship is to help them link theory and practice in their professional areas. Many trainees report that limited opportunities are available to obtain the much-needed relevant work experience in their trade areas.
One reason is that because some specialised organisations do not accept interns, trainees only benefit from the general skills training part of job attachment. Unfortunately, this form of partial internship is not effective for a training system that advocates for a competent workforce.
Research maintains that matching training instruments to trainees determines the effectiveness of any job attachment programme.
Effective communication binds employees in every organisation. Poor communication, on the other hand, destroys trust and productivity in workplaces.
Poor communication often occurs when there is a difference between what is said and what is heard.
In other words, it happens when the persons being communicated misunderstand the message being communicated to them. Small and big organisations experience poor communication. Interns complain that poor communication hinders their internship time.
Interns report that poor communication results from language differences spoken in some industries.
While English is the medium of communication in public sector institutions, the private sector continues to prefer other languages besides English.
Another cause of poor communication is the toxic nature of how supervisors speak to subordinates in the work environment.
Some supervisors are notorious for their use of offensive language and disrespect for junior staff.
Industry supervisors subject their interns to similar treatment, resulting in fear and silencing them for the period of their job attachment.
Fearful interns refrain from asking questions to avoid the fury of their supervisors and mentors.
Poor communication means poor learning opportunities while trainees are on job attachment.
Competition between interns
Competition is good if it results in a win-win situation.
Trainees report that during job attachment, they experience unhealthy competition introduced by their supervisors and mentors.
While trainees acknowledge that competition motivates them to work hard, they, however, concede that the conditions under which the competition take place defeat the purpose of job attachment.
Most trainees argue that the competitive atmosphere they experience during internship intimidates interns into submission and exploits them for the duration of their internship programme.
Evidence shows that cunning trainees are favoured as they can manipulate supervisors and mentors to fall for their shenanigans.
All the factors combined; trainees report they are beset by intense unmanageable emotions.
Trainees complain that such emotional traumas negatively affect their ability to think and act rationally.
As a result, some trainees complete their job attachment programme stressed and their lives traumatically affected forever.
Trainees claim that the main cause of such emotions is a massive workload, resulting from the unethical practices of organisations accepting interns.
For instance, interns observe that when they arrive at their host workplaces, many mentors and other employees would have taken leave placing the entire workload on few interns.
Overwhelmed by work and with little help from anyone, many interns’ performance and personal health suffer.
‘Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it unless it agrees with your reason and your common sense.’ (Buddha). The key question is ‘What are your factors that inhibit job attachment in TVET?’ and ‘What can we do about such factors?’