16 Jan

What is Work-Based Learning (WBL)?

Work-based learning (WBL) is an educational method that immerses learners in the workplace, bridging the gap between theoretical classroom learning and practical, real-world work experiences.

In this article, we’ll be exploring five of the most common types of WBL, in addition to the benefits and challenges come with this style of learning.


Apprenticeships are the archetype of WBL. They forge a path to skilled trade qualifications such as plumbing, carpentry, baking or horticulture. The learner spends a large amount of time in the work environment, undergoing practical-based learning to grasp the requirements of the job. Full-time apprenticeships typically take four years to complete, six years for part-time, with roughly 1,500 work hours to be logged in total. Every apprenticeship includes a training contract between the apprentice and the employer.

Apprenticeships can give learners the opportunity to earn an income while completing a qualification, and even include the possibility of time-based or competency-based pay increases during the course[3].

Learners undergoing apprenticeships are evaluated regularly to measure their efficacy, with everything reported back to the RTO, to ensure that government compliance is met. If the student dazzles their employer, they may be offered a full-time job when the apprenticeship is complete—the first exciting rung on their chosen career ladder.

RTOs can offer learners a leg up by implementing a digital Work-Based Learning tool that gives learners a retainable logbook they can use as a portfolio when looking for jobs. Digitising the management of WBL also provides better oversight over learner progress and sentiment throughout their on-the-job learning experience.


Traineeships work similarly to apprenticeships, but with a wider scope of vocational career options that aren’t limited to skilled trades. For example, marketing, business, or fitness qualifications. This type of work-based learning tends to be shorter (1-3 years), with the same number of weekly hours as apprenticeships: 38 hours full-time, and 15 hours part-time.

Structured Work Placement

As with apprentices and traineeships, Structured Work Placements (SWPs, also known as service learning) achieve a specific, accredited competency, but are much shorter, typically lasting between 5-10 days. Aged care is an industry that typically uses placements, with students being required to complete a 120 hour stint in an aged care facility as part of their course. SWP can be mandatory or optional, depending on the selected course.

Professional Development

In the VET industry, professional development is when trainers and teachers maintain their skills, so that they can continue to effectively train students. This is an ASQA requirement.

Work Experience / Internship

Unlike the above types of WBL, work experience doesn’t result in an accreditation, but focuses on providing the student with real-world experience within a profession. From the learner’s perspective, work experience is a great way to develop their careers, on a paid or unpaid basis.

The length of an internship can vary greatly, lasting anywhere between a single day to three months.

Work experience and internships can be used by employers to attract fresh talent to their company.

A new way to manage work-based learning

RTOs have traditionally used paper to manage the whole work-based learning process. Work-based learning management can become complex quickly for RTOs when managing a cohort of learners over hundreds of hours, the relationship with the host employer and supervisor, and tracking progression.

Digitising and automating apprenticeship, traineeship and work placements through a Student Management System gives RTOs complete and secure management, from placement setup to completion.

These days, more and more RTOs are ditching the paper for an online solution, reaping the benefits of: 

  • Authentic evidence capture: Learners can create their own digital body of evidence that becomes a skills portfolio to help them land a job
  • Gathering data to improve training: RTOs can see how their learners are applying course skill to real-world situations to further refine their training
  • Scalability: A digital solution reduces the manual process associated with managing on-the-job training, allowing RTOs to create a program that grows with their business
  • A completely digitised experience: Everyone has the tools they need at their fingertips – empowering each party to make the work-based learning experience the best it can be.

Learn more about how RTOs are digitising their work-based learning management here.


  1. Georgina Atkinson, 2016, “Work-based learning and work-integrated learning: fostering engagement with employers,” National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER)
  2. Fair Work, “Apprentice & trainee pay rates,” Australian Government

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