Work-based Learning (WBL)
Definition, conceptual framework and key features
The term WBL cannot be clearly distinguished from other terms used to refer to practice-based learning in a work context; several close (and interchangeable) synonyms are found in the literature, including employment-based learning, on-the-job training, enterprise-based learning and, in some contexts, workplace learning.
The term ‘work-based learning’ refers to learning that occurs when people do real work in a real work environment. This is paid or unpaid work that leads to the production of real goods and services. Practical learning that takes place in an educational institution – for instance in a vocational college’s workshop – and classroom-based learning that happens to take place in an enterprise are not WBL. Virtual firms, practice firms and simulation tools are used by some educational institutions. These are not a substitute for the participation of learners in work practice and process, as they cannot create all of the features of a real workplace, but they can be useful when the alternative is difficult to access.
WBL in Europe
Work-based learning (WBL) have been high on the policy agendas of many countries and international organisations for several years. At the Riga summit in June 2015, the ministers responsible for vocational education and training (VET) reaffirmed their efforts towards raising the overall quality and status of VET in the context of the Copenhagen process, in order to meet the Education and Training 2020 (ET 2020) strategic objectives, as well as their support for the wider European growth and jobs agenda.
The EU Member States, the candidate countries, the European social partners and the European Commission agreed on a new set of medium-term deliverables (MTDs) for the period 2015– 2020 . The first of the five MTDs focuses on work-based learning (WBL) in VET: ‘Promote work-based learning in all its forms, with special attention to apprenticeships, by involving social partners, companies, chambers and VET providers, as well as by stimulating innovation and entrepreneurship.’
As part of its New Skills Agenda for Europe, the European Commission proposed that business and social partners should be involved in designing and delivering VET at all levels and that VET should include a strong work-based dimension . To inspire and support the various stakeholders to make WBL happen, the Commission identified 20 guiding principles for high-performance apprenticeships and WBL .
The project “Targeted capacity building of VET partnerships in the Danube Region for the effective modernisation of VET systems - Learning by Doing” aims to improve the capacities of all relevant VET actors through reinforcing regional, national and transnational partnerships in order to ease the transition of existing VET systems in the Danube countries. The project is implemented by the 24 partners from nine countries. The composition of the partnership has been consciously set up in such a manner that all key VET actors (chambers, regional or national level authorities and multinational companies) could directly participate in the project, representing all countries of the programme area.