Work-based learning (WBL) is an education program that includes learning in a work environment, including apprenticeships, traineeships, work placements, internships and cadetships. It’s also known as work-based education, work-based training, and work-integrated learning. According to NCVER, WBL leads to better employment outcomes for students, and can provide employers with workers who have relevant skill sets learned through structured training. There are many benefits to WBL, but also many challenges. To achieve a successful WBL program, training organisations need the right tools and technology to support their learners and maintain positive relationships with employers.
Having quick and easy access to the tools and technology that support the WBL process is highly important for all parties involved.
Work based learning is a highly attractive aspect of VET for those who are considering vocational education. Employability skills are a key aspect of WBL that students want to learn, and in a workplace setting, the experience can help to ingrain best-practice employability skills until they become natural. These skills include teamwork, communication, critical thinking and decision-making, and generally aren’t directly addressed in the classroom.
A student completing a WBL program should have quick mobile access to their course details, progress, attendance, and the location of where they’ll be working. They need to be able to easily communicate with trainers, employers, and course administrators to resolve any issues.
For students, being able to log and capture work-based activities, assessments and attendance anywhere and at any time is invaluable. This ease of use supports students to focus on their learning goals and move through their program with confidence and confirmation that they’re progressing well.
The benefits WBL offers students can be directly reflected in the success of those training providers who provide WBL. According to NCVER, the most common advantages of work-based education for training providers are:
The advantages WBL can provide for training providers will directly impact trainers and teachers, with the overall training experience reaching a higher level of enthusiasm, commitment and productivity on all sides.
For successful WBL, teachers and trainers should be able to:
For employers, WBL can provide significant benefits for their business through greater ongoing commitment and engagement from the employees undertaking WBL. Improved employee recruitment and retention will come from this, as the up-to-date knowledge from student employees can provide an opportunity for existing employees to learn, and improve their current way of doing things. Addressing any skill gaps here is a huge opportunity for employees’ personal development and improving business processes.
Technology can support employers through improved communication and coordination. With faster communication between everyone involved, roles and expectations can be made clear before training begins and the quality of the WBL experience will improve greatly. Communication isn’t the only aspect that can benefit from using technology that supports WBL–other key benefits include higher productivity, enhanced corporate image and improved staff satisfaction. To execute a highly successful WBL program, employers and supervisors will benefit from having technology that can help to provide quick access to student and work placement details, attendance and recognition via digital signatures, and simplified feedback and communication regarding the student’s progress to key stakeholders.
With the right system in place, RTO Administrators and Work Placements Coordinators will be able to save time in their tasks, such as:
Although there are some barriers to implementing WBL, there are solutions. Let’s break some of the barriers down.
With the many potential stressors of tertiary study, students are already under stress and pressure. To support students and reduce the stress they may feel, employers should clearly communicate an openness to the student’s suggestions and ideas, understand and consider the techniques the student has learnt in the classroom and ensuring the work environment is safe, respectful and accepting of all employees. Flexibility and patience is also important, as the student is being assessed on multiple levels in a brand new situation–it may take some time to adjust and conquer the learning curve. Clear communication is paramount here, and having the right tools in place, such as a work-based learning tool integrated in a student/learning management system, will create a good level of clarity and comfort.
Many providers lack the resources needed to effectively establish and maintain employee partnerships. Employers may also face resource issues that lead to rejecting WBL opportunities, such as staff time and loss of productivity, additional administration and technology requirements. Although these challenges may take some time to overcome, having online capabilities in place to support initiating a WBL program can help.
Overall, a Work-Based Learning feature that is part of a training management system is the best way to manage successful work based learning for everyone.
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