Blog: Let the journey begin!

Training 1, Day 1 – Let the journey begin!

Today marked the first day of the SUCSESS project training, bringing together academics from the partner universities in South Africa, Finland and the UK. The Zoom session began with a brief welcome and background to the project which allowed everyone to meet the members of the project team and finally put faces and voices to names. As the Work Integrated Learning (WIL) coordinator at the University of Johannesburg School of Tourism and Hospitality (STH), this training session was truly inspiring to me.

What was interesting to see in the session was that as academics, we tend to forget just how many different forms of experiential learning there are and that this umbrella term incorporates far more than just WIL but also other activities such as the use of case studies, problem-based learning, coaching, mentoring and job shadowing. We also tend to think that the focus of experiential learning is on the lecturer coordinating these activities, when in fact the student has a very important role to play in this type of learning process.

The last year and the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic threw a very large spanner in the WIL works with students and industry partners quickly having to adapt to remote WIL practices which although were effective, did not come without their challenges. To hear of other universities facing the same challenges for me created a sense of comradery and made the journey seem far less lonely. The presentation by Jenny Cole, the Employability Partnerships Manager at Sheffield-Hallam University in the United Kingdom had me hanging on to every slide as she detailed how they too had taken WIL online. Jenny also spoke about a number of extremely exciting industry engagement initiatives that are taking place at her university, that are built into the curriculum at every level of study. Seeing these practices and their positive outcomes, solidified my opinion that at the STH we need to relook at our curricula and make the necessary changes to formalize experiential learning practices at all levels and also to include an increased focus on entrepreneurship.

Following the presentations, the trainees were sent into various breakaway rooms to discuss what our motivations were for attending the training and what we hoped to achieve after its completion. Although I was paired with my colleagues from the STH, it was great to engage over camera and to share ideas as we have not had the chance to work together in this manner since the start of the pandemic. It was also extremely useful as we all come from the same foundation and could have discussions towards a common, school level goal.

Having the opportunity to see firsthand what other universities are doing in the sphere of industry engagement sparked many new and exciting ideas in my mind. I also came to the realisation that although we have made some exciting new changes in the STH over the last year, there is still much that we can do in terms of bringing the industry into our classrooms from first year level. In particular, there is much more that we can do to inspire a spirit of entrepreneurship in our students and to assist them to foster their ideas and grow them into actual business ventures.

Judging by the excellent content and exciting discussions held on day 1, I can tell that this training programme is going to be extremely worthwhile and exciting for all attendees. I look forward to the days to come and very incredibly privileged to be a part of this exciting and extremely relevant project.

Written by:

Tracy Daniels, WIL Coordinator, University of Johannesburg, School of Tourism and Hospitality

This blog post has also been published on the website of the University of Johannesburg: