What is my role as a workplace student supervisor?

WPL occurs under some sort of supervision to safeguard both your clients and the reputation of your workplace, but also to safeguard students. The purpose of supervision also includes helping students enter and become part of a professional team, learning about working together, asking questions, speaking up, being resilient and showing initiative where appropriate. As a workplace supervisor you take on roles as a teacher of technical skills and knowledge, a mentor, a facilitator of critical reflection, an assessor of students’ professional reasoning and their completed tasks and a gatekeeper for your profession or occupation. By taking on the responsibility of workplace student supervisor you play an important role of educating the future workforce. It is a rewarding role because it helps students develop their professional identity. Getting engaged with the university will improve your experience and capability as a student supervisor.

What should the university know about my organisation?

The better the university understands what your organisation is all about, including the size of the workforce, the scope and breadth of the work, the easier it is to identify how students can fit in. Starting a dialogue discussing what it is your organisation can offer can be the beginning of a good partnership.

Ideally students should do their own research before they arrive and know what your organisation is all about. But it is best to check with them anyway what they actually know and understand about your organisation so you can fill in the gaps or clarify preconceived ideas. The better they understand your organisation and its ways of operating the easier students can fit in. Therefore at the first meeting with students you could ask them the question what do you know about us?

What should students know about you as their supervisor?

It is helpful to students to know what you expect of them and how you would like to work with them. Students learn best when they have a positive, constructive and honest professional relationship with you. Students should be encouraged to ask questions so that any misunderstandings can be cleared up quickly. Some students will be reticent and "think" they are disturbing their supervisor - so from the outset clarify how you will work with them.

What should I know about the university?

First of all it is important to know who the university contact person is and that you have their details so that you can contact the university whenever you need to. Ask for the course curriculum, content and assessment tasks that students need to complete. You could also ask the university about attendance expectations, assessment criteria and tasks and what your role and responsibility is in assessing students’ performance. This will give you an idea what students should be capable of when they come to learn in your organisation and the university’s expectations about your role as a student supervisor.

What should I know about the students?

When you plan the student placement it is very helpful to know as much as possible about the student who is coming to your workplace. At your first meeting with students ask them for their placement plan. This will give you an understanding of what they wish to achieve while they are in your workplace. This provides you with an opportunity to clarify expectations at the very beginning. You can ask students to share their CV with you.

What support and training is my organisation offering me?

Check your job description, performance management targets and any other documents provided by your organisation that may help you to understand what your role as a workplace student supervisor entails. If there is no documentation you should have a discussion with your manager elucidating what your role is all about, what support you can expect from your department and who else can assist you in the student supervisor role. It is a good idea to check with your HR department if they are conducting student inductions about your organisation. If not or if there is no HR department in your organisation, you could write a short induction manual to provide students with a snapshot of your organisation.

It might be a good idea to ask for reflection meetings with your team before and after you have supervised students in your workplace.