Work-based learning refers to learning that occurs through undertaking real work, through the production of real goods and services, whether this work is paid or unpaid. I think that the key benefits for participating in such types of programmes can be categorised under 3 key areas:
learning-rich environments (leading to development of technical and soft skills);
career development (particularly in terms of increased knowledge of available career paths), and
- social development through increased levels of job satisfaction, motivation and self-confidence.
1. A strong learning environment
Workplaces provide a strong learning environment since they offer real ‘on-the-job’ experience. This makes it easier to acquire both hard and soft skills.
The acquisition of hard, technical skills sometimes typically requires practical training on expensive equipment. The pace of technological change means that equipment can quickly become obsolete in a number of key industries. This is often an issue for education and training institutions with limited finances to acquire new equipment. In contrast, workplace training will often be more cost-effective, since it makes use of equipment already available in firms. Firms also employ the people who understand how to use the latest equipment and can explain the associated techniques.
Equally, working directly with clients and colleagues will help develop effective communication skills. Role-play situations in the classroom are simply not as effective as experiencing the day-to-day challenges of the workplace, which lead to the development of practical soft skills such as problem-solving and entrepreneurial skills.
2. Improves individuals’ career development
Work-based learning also supports career development. For young people in particular, opportunities to show experienced professionals and carry out real work tasks cannot be overstated. The benefits are amplified when participants have the opportunity to reflect on their experience and share it with others. It is also worth recognising that people in a learning-rich environment are more likely to be positively disposed towards learning and taking a positive approach to their future career development. Improved knowledge of career options in combination with a strong learning environment also increases the potential for individuals to move from one job to another.
3. Social/emotional development
The social benefits should also not be overlooked. Increased levels of motivation, self-confidence and motivation for learners are significant outcomes for both the individuals undertaking the training but also the employers who are hosting the training, in particular in lower staff turnover and higher levels of job satisfaction. For the learners themselves, work-based learning enables the development of competences that allows them to develop their own identities and grow as individuals. For those individuals that are often traditionally disadvantaged in the labour market (i.e. migrants, young people not in education, employment and training, etc.), work-based learning also increases social inclusion. Employers also benefit from work-based learning programmes, particularly in lower staff turnover and higher levels of job satisfaction. For additional benefits for employers in carrying out work-based learning programmes, please see this blog here.
Are there any other key benefits to individuals in undertaking education and training in the workplace? Feel free to drop a comment below.
Aaron Rajania is a senior research consultant in Ecorys UK, with a specific focus on education and employment policy and research work. Specific research areas include teacher training systems, learning pathways, quality assurance frameworks, and skills development in a work setting. He has lived and worked in a number of countries in Europe including Belgium, Germany, Hungary and the UK.