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Maximizing career opportunities through WBL

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WBL programs play a crucial role in preparing students for the workforce (Jason Goodman - Unsplash)

By: Dr. Abdul Rahman Zahari

Many employers would agree that the minimum of two or three months of industrial training embedded into academic programmes in universities is insufficient to transfer as much practical knowledge to the students as possible. On the other, the students have also less opportunities to show their talent to their ‘temporary employers’.

Realising some disadvantages of practical training, Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN), Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Campus (located at Muadzam Shah, Pahang) have offered its two signature programmes, namely Bachelor in Business Administration (Honours) in Marketing and Bachelor in Business Administration (Honours) in Human Resources Management with work-based learning (WBL) teaching mode since the year 2020.

WBL, in the context of UNITEN programmes, refers to educational experiences that integrate academic learning with practical work experience in professional settings relevant to students’ fields of study. These two programs provide students with hands-on opportunities to apply theoretical knowledge gained in the classroom to real-world work environments specialize in Marketing or Human Resources Management for the period of 1 year. It means that the students will be placed at the industry partnerships for a year, and the students will integrate the theories and practices (5 specialization courses in Marketing and Human Resources Management).

The students will be guided by appointed ‘coaches’ or supervisors. To ensure the student’s progress in WBL, the university has set up a WBL Unit to cater to all WBL activities. In addition, the lecturers were also assigned to each WBL course.

There are several unique characteristics of WBL programs offered at UNITEN Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Campus:

1. Integration of theory and practice: WBL bridges the gap between academic theory and practical application by allowing students to gain first-hand experience in their chosen field (Marketing or Human Resources Management).

2. Experiential learning: Students engage in active learning experiences for one year within workplace settings, developing skills, knowledge, and competencies relevant to their future careers.

3. Coaching and supervision: Students typically work under the guidance of experienced professionals who provide coaching, feedback, and support to facilitate their learning and professional growth.

4. Reflective practice: WBL often involves reflective activities where students critically analyze their experiences, identify learning outcomes, and make connections between theory and practice.

5. Industry partnership: To date, UNITEN Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Campus has collaborated with 29 industry partnerships in various top industries to facilitate WBL opportunities, ensuring students access relevant and meaningful work experiences aligned with their academic goals.

Recent data in 2023 shows a total of 134 students from both programmes have joined the WBL mode, and they have mentioned tremendous benefit statements on WBL:

1. Practical experience: WBL provides valuable hands-on experience in real-world professional settings, allowing them to apply theoretical knowledge gained in the classroom to practical situations. This experience enhances their understanding of their field and helps them develop relevant skills and competencies.

2. Skill development: Students participating in WBL programmes can develop a wide range of skills, including technical skills specific to their chosen profession, as well as transferable skills such as communication, problem-solving, teamwork, and time management.

3. Professional networking: Engaging in WBL allows them to build relationships and network with professionals in their field. These connections can provide mentorship, career guidance, and job opportunities in the future.

4. Enhanced employability: WBL experience is highly valued by employers, as it demonstrates that students have practical skills, relevant experience, and a strong work ethic. Participating in such programs can significantly enhance students’ employability and make them more competitive in the job market.

5. Improved confidence: By completing WBL placements and gaining one year of WBL experience, students often experience confidence in their abilities and readiness to enter the workforce after graduation.

6. Clarification of career goals: WBL allows them to explore different career paths within their field and gain insight into the day-to-day realities of various professions. This can help them clarify their career goals and make informed decisions about their future career paths.

7. Academic integration: WBL programmes often require them to reflect on their experiences and connect them to their academic coursework. This integration fosters a deeper understanding of theoretical concepts and their practical applications, enhancing overall learning outcomes.

Overall, WBL programs at UNITEN play a crucial role in preparing students for the workforce by equipping them with practical skills, professional networks, and a deeper understanding of their chosen fields. Those interested in getting the WBL experience may contact the university and enroll in the two programmes.

The author is a Senior Lecturer at the UNITEN Business School (UBS), Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN). He may be reached at rahman@uniten.edu.my

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