Workmentoring and the three way agreement.
A group of partners has been working together on a series of projects focusing on the cooperation between colleges / placement providers and workplaces when training students for jobs. The partnership is a mix of consultants and colleges with a comprehensive background in different sectors from different school systems.
The main idea here is that all parties should be responsible, school, workplace and student.
We can list three projects:
POETE (Portfolio of Evidence to Europe) transferring the idea of a portfolio done by students providing evidence of their own training and experience. The portfolio should be designed at least partly by the student using the media the student is comfortable with. This idea of Portfolio of Evidence was developed in the project ProVoTrain.
The Workmentor project ( workmentor.vma.is ) used mentoring systems and designed a workshop for the workmentor / workers who work alongside trainees / students so theycan better support the trainees. This is based on the assumption that if the student feels good and secure at the workplace the student is more likely to succeed in the training. Therefore we want both employer and coworkers to take part in discussion about how they can best get in contact and support the student.
The Workqual project ( workqual.vma.is ) used the former projects and the vast experience of the partners to compile a manual on workplacements designed the way Quality Management Systems work. In the Workqual manual we list the steps needed to prepare, inform, match student and workplace, follow the student at the workplace, assess the student and evaluate the whole process.
Our assumption is that even if we have different sectors, different types of placements and different school systems we can use the same methods to prepare and implement the workplace training. In most cases we need the same things to be in place to expect a successful workplacement.
The main result from our work in all these projects is that it is a special task to organise and follow a workplacement. Neither teachers nor employers do this as a regular part of their work. It is important to discuss and prepare this well. Many people are involved. Administrators in school and workplace need to form general agreements between school and workplace adressing insurance and many other aspects. Teachers and those taking care of workplacements need to be aware of the special circumstances at the workplace. Employers, workmentors and other people working with the student at the workplace should be aware of the importance of being able to put themselves into the shoes of the student arriving at the workplace depending on the help of the coworkers.
Why is the workplace training important? First of all we desperately need young and older people to train for important jobs in all sectors. Every year too many young people do not find their skills in school, mostly because schools only recognise a few skills, mostly related to reading and writing. The opportunities young people get to experience real work are very limited, they get a part time job in a restaurant or retail giving them a very limited picture of the life of work.
We feel successful training at the workplace must be the responsibility of all involved, the workplace, the school and the student. If all parties are involved and can influence the process it is more likely to be a success.
Furthermore, the partnership has now started a new project AppMentor looking at the possibilities of using smartphones and other media with workplacements.
We think all this work has developed our image of the relationship between schools and workplaces and this should be recognized as an important factor when discussing vocational education.