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Why work-based learning is the future of VET

March 10, 2021

Ensuring learners become work-ready is something that the VET industry continuously tries to achieve and improve, and work-based learning (WBL) is one of the most direct ways to achieve this. Work-based learning, sometimes called work placements or work-integrated learning, is a key aspect of VET that is used to bridge the knowledge gap between theory learnt in the classroom and the practicality of real work experiences. WBL is increasingly being recognised globally as promoting quality and relevance for education and training[1], as it’s practical approach also helps for developing key employability skills.

Competency-based learning

Research from UNESCO-UNEVOC described WBL as a pathway to competency-based education[2]. Competency-based learning focuses on the attainment and demonstration of skills to meet industry-defined standards, rather than to a learner’s achievement relative to that of others[3]. Competency-based learning has become so important that the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has proposed that VET should include a significant work-based component. With the inherent competency-based nature of VET, WBL is a good way to provide evidence that learners are able to demonstrate workplace-learned skills.

The need for greater Industry and VET collaboration

With the gap widening between knowledge generated through Australia’s training system, and the skills demanded by employers[4], it’s clear there’s a need for better collaboration between industry and the vocational education system. Employers hold a crucial role in developing a skilled workforce, so developing successful relationships between employers and training organisations is key for meeting the skills demand. With improved relationships, employers and training providers can facilitate better workplace learning opportunities and ongoing professional development.

Benefits for learners

When industry and provider partnerships improve, learners benefit directly. Better workplace learning opportunities can make the transition for learners into working life smoother, with learners having high levels of work and industry-specific skills and competencies[5]. Training that builds both technical skills and general employability is key for preparing learners for the unpredictable future workforce landscape, as it ensures learners gain skills and knowledge that is transferable and adaptable through career transitions. As every worker will need to upskill or retrain sometime in their careers [7], WBL will be needed to support a VET system that can do this for learners and workers.

The future of VET

From the comprehensive research of the Joyce Review, it’s clear that the vision and strategy for the future of the VET sector places work-based learning at the forefront of skills development. The Review even recommends that as a long-term goal, all government-funded vocational qualifications should include work-based learning.

Currently, many training packages, which define the skills and knowledge needed by learners to perform a job, put focus on work-based learning. According to the National Careers Institute[6], the main aims of training packages are to:

  • help the VET system achieve a better match between skills demand and supply
  • encourage flexible and relevant workforce development and learning
  • provide for the national recognition of the vocational outcomes of learning
  • guide and support individuals in their choice of training and career

Work-based learning can effectively support all of these aims. In order for VET to enhance its reputation as a sector that can deliver skill needs now and in the future with agility, WBL needs to be increasingly embraced and implemented over the coming years.

How a WBL tool can help training organisations, industry and learners to succeed

With various challenges holding training organisations and industry back from delivering work based learning programs[8], paper-based log books should be left in the past and replaced with a streamlined work-based learning tool. An online WBL tool that is accessible both on the web and on a mobile app can make WBL programs better for all parties involved, including better accessibility, an automated approach to compliance and offline capabilities.

References

  1. Work-based learning and its role in CBT - VDC
  2. UNESCO-UNEVOC–Work-based learning: Why? How?
  3. Australian Government Department of Education and Training - Competency-based Training Fact Sheet
  4. NCVER–Gap widening between education and skills demand
  5. Strengthening Skills: Expert Review of Australia's Vocational Education and Training System | Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
  6. Training packages
  7. The challenges and opportunities for the future of VET
  8. Work-based education leads to better employment outcomes

Learn more about aXcelerate’s Work-based learning tool here.

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