What is Work-based Learning? A Practical Guide for Education Providers

Claudia Reiners
November 18, 2020

What is Work-based Learning? A Practical Guide for Education Providers

4bf428ed6af9ff680b7ac8b24b046f3d?s=50&d=mm&r=g Claudia Reiners
Head of Strategy

While the COVID-19 pandemic has boosted the popularity of online learning and micro-credentials, work-based learning still has a valuable place in the training ecosystem.

Offering real-world learning opportunities at your training organisation can set you apart from the competition.

What is work-based learning?

Work-based learning is an educational technique popular in the vocational education and training (VET) sector. Classroom learning is paired with work placement to equip students with real-life skills and help them thrive in the workforce.

Work-based learning can take many different forms, such as a traineeship, placement, apprenticeship or internship.

It can be an effort to manage a network of work-based learning employers, and to support students through the process. But doing so can generate incredible learning outcomes for students as well as boost the reputation of your training organisation. Here’s exactly how to reap its benefits.

CFOX Blog Graphic

How can work-based learning interact with online learning?

It’s no secret that online learning has gained massive popularity, particularly in recent months as the COVID-19 pandemic forced face-to-face classes online. One aspect of the learning experience that students may not be able to enjoy when studying online is job training. Work-based learning provides invaluable work experience to students while also legitimising any studies they have completed online.

The mutual benefits of work-based learning

Work-based learning is mutually beneficial for training providers, students and employers.

Training providers can:

  • Provide a better learning experience to students
  • Build relationships with local employers
  • Improve their reputation as an educational institution

Students can:

  • Develop employability skills in a real work environment
  • Try out different career pathways before committing to one
  • Possibly transition to a permanent paid role upon completing their training

Employers can:

  • Develop a tried and tested talent pipeline
  • Access a young and forward-thinking labour pool
  • Enhance their reputation as a great place for young people to work

The biggest compliment trainers can have is when students say the workplace was “just like you said it would be!” because it shows we are teaching and discussing current work experiences.

Zoe Crowder
Operations Manager
All Health Training

Blending theory and practice to enhance the learning process

Work experience can help classroom instruction come to life, adding real-world context to theoretical learning. To make this as successful as possible, training providers and employers must work together to ensure that a student’s classroom and workplace experiences complement one another.

The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario suggests that one possible way of making this happen is to opt for the “theory informed by practice approach.” In this approach, students will gain practical experience and build practical skills before studying the theory behind it all.

For the best possible results, the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario notes that students, staff and workplace employers must share the responsibility of the learning experience.

In practice, this could look like:

  • Staff and faculty building knowledge into a structured work-based learning program, combined with formal assessment
  • Students integrating what they have learned in the workplace with further academic learning
  • Employers facilitating student learning through proper selection, implementation and feedback on work-related activities.

All parties should also be aware of student learning outcomes so that theoretical content and practical skill development can line up effectively.

Finding work-based learning employers and working with government

Finding work-based learning employers can be a time-consuming process. Some training organisations may wish to outsource this task to an agency who will reach out to local employers and build relationships with them to establish a workplace learning agreement.

Some of these organisations may be not-for-profit organisations that are funded by the government, making them an even more viable solution for educators. You can also draw work-based employers to you by:

  • Building a good reputation: Word of mouth can bring new employers to you. This means that it’s essential to match students with suitable employers and ensure both staff and students uphold a positive impression of your training organisation.
  • Showing appreciation to employers: Hosting an event to thank employers for their partnership can be a great way of retaining and attracting employers to your portfolio. Handwritten ‘thank-you notes’ from students can also leave a positive impression.
  • Connect with business intermediaries: Connecting with organisations like chambers of commerce, industry associations, and workforce investment boards can expose you to a network of interested employers.

For more guidance on effective work-based learning programs, read “A Practical Guide to Work-Integrated Learning”.

Work-based learning promotes a more well-rounded learning experience while enhancing the competency of the workforce as a whole.

By participating in a work-based learning program, you’ll be able to improve student outcomes and make your mark as a leading training organisation.

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Claudia Reiners
Head of Strategy
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