Sociology's job spin-off

January 23, 1998

NAPIER University students may soon earn more than a pittance for menial part-time work - they may also be able to earn academic credit.

Iain Marshall, senior lecturer in Napier's department of psychology and sociology, launches a pilot scheme next month to test whether there are potential learning opportunities for students in part-time jobs that they have taken to support themselves financially.

Thirty students will take a module that could win them 15 credits towards an annual total of 120.

"We are being explicitly asked by Dearing, Garrick and others to show that we can better prepare people for the world of work. But with organisations slimming down, only a relatively modest number of students have the opportunity for integrated work experience," Dr Marshall said.

The scheme offers "self-starter" volunteers the chance to put some academic structure on their unofficial work experience, even when this may have no direct course relevance.

Dr Marshall said that shelf-stacking and pint-pulling will not in themselves attract credit, but his experience with supervised placements has convinced him that success or failure hinge more on the student's motivation than a "good" or "bad" placement.

"Where a student is motivated to learn, I expect there will be some very modest jobs that a student can make a lot of," he said.

The academic pay-off for the student "might be job related, finding out about the company training policies and recruitment, or course related, finding examples of course theory in practice, or related to personal development, such as telephone, interviewing or keyboard skills."

The pilot will investigate how students can produce evidence of what they have learned in a form that can be assessed by staff, and how much support will have to come from the academics.

He believes many employers will back the scheme if they see the chance of capitalising on "a sparky student with an interest in learning things".

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