Work-based learning (WBL) in the form of work placements and traineeships (WPT) provide an important source of skills and competency enhancement in a HE environment increasingly concerned with satisfying both the needs of students to be prepared for the workplace as well as the expectations of their future employers. However, work placements and traineeships can be a challenge to set-up, maintain, and innovate successfully within HE.
To respond to this concern, WEXHE Project invited academic staff from different backgrounds across Europe to join a four-day workshop (21-24 May) where they were introduced to the WBL context in HE together with different strategies and examples of good practice that would help them set-up and reflect on ways to promote these courses within their own country context.
What did the workshop programme include?
The first day of the workshop was primarily orientational and discursive in which participants were introduced to the WEXHE project in terms of aims, objectives and research outcomes. Participants during the day were encouraged to discuss their understanding and experience of WBL together with features of their respective country contexts. This activity was followed by a discussion led by a panel of experts in which employer, academic and careers staff perspectives were explored, reflected on, and responded to by the participants.
The second day began by assessing the background to WBL, particularly with reference to the UK, with a concern to develop an understanding of how the link between theory and practice has been negotiated and developed in the HE sector. This was followed by a presentation illustrating how the bridge between HE and employers has been translated into successful work placements and traineeships both in the UK and across Europe. Finally, participants were both provided and encouraged to practically engage with tools/approaches to designing work-related learning courses in their own respective fields.
During the third day, further examples of placements from broadly contrasting disciplines were presented and explored, evaluating challenges and expectations from student, staff and employer perspectives. Furthermore, examples of different approaches to WBL were presented and engaged with from across Europe including the dual studies approach in Germany and apprenticeships in the UK. Participants were invited to consider the adaptability of these approaches with respect of their own cultural context.
Quality Assurance in WBL arrangements
The final day was dedicated to essential quality assurance procedures and approaches to assessment before coming to a close by looking forwards to the future of WBL in Europe. The former presentations informed and engaged participants regarding guiding principles and assessment criteria from quality assurance agencies across Europe. These were followed by a concluding presentation and discussion that addressed the future of WBL in which participants were invited to consider the challenges ahead in their respective contexts and how the research produced by WEXHE could play a part in WBL development.
Please stay tuned for more WEXHE event announcements and news!