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Work-integrated learning: the new professional apprenticeship?
This article considers the intersection between two major themes in university policy: the improvement of participation by rural and regional communities and the dimension of graduate employability. It argues that work-integrated learning has the potential to address both themes, but that the development of an apprenticeship model for prestige degrees such as law may deliver additional benefits to rural and regional student engagement. It considers a radical approach to employability by the reintroduction of the apprenticeship approach in disciplines of law and accounting specifically to assist scaffolding of learning for rural and regional students. It considers the modern context of university education and the implications of an expanded university system for delivering employability skills. The expansion of university education has not delivered consistent improvements in participation among rural and regional populations, and it is hypothesised that the visible integration of work-integrated learning has the capacity to address this deficit. However, it is argued that these measures should be supplemented by an innovative program of modern apprenticeships in prestige degrees; such a program could address both participation and employability outcomes. The article contributes to the literature by making explicit the links between the visibility of prestige occupational pathways to rural and regional students, the affective concerns of potential students making the choice to undertake higher education, and the scaffolding of skills and knowledge. It recommends further research in the form of a pilot integration of an apprenticeship model within a university program, but notes the current funding, discipline, and systemic barriers to this process in the current university system in Australia.