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Title WEX21C
Work experience as an education and training strategy: New approaches for the 21st century
Aspect
Concept Trends Findings Practice Challenge
Synopsis The policy analyses have revealed major issues in promoting work experience:

(1) A shortage in the number and quality of placements is an increasing problem, thus forcing a search for alternatives. The problem of quality was described variously but there was agreement in attributing low quality to low levels of training of workplace instructors and supervisors and lack of industrial experience of school teachers. However, the project has developed, inter alia, a new approach to quality in work experience which represents a considerable step forward from prevailing ‘bureaucratic’ and ‘mechanistic’ approaches. It provides a means of mapping an integrated approach to quality which is based on learning considerations and which requires explorations well beyond an exchange of information about the ‘quality’ of learning: it opens ways of supporting and encouraging greater innovation in practice. 

(2) Another problem lay in the inadequately defined roles and responsibilities of education and business partners in organising and delivering work experience. There was a widely expressed need to strengthen the links between these partners, however much those links varied between countries. The Swedish policy study in fact questions how far the general wish for education-business links is actually expressed in practice and notes a widening gap between the two.

(3) The studies have consistently shown the barrier of the academic/vocational divide which persists in different manifestations and which continues to impinge upon the status and functions of work experience. There is a general concern to increase the esteem of occupational and vocational learning in the face of increasing participation in university education and, interestingly, something of a trend to regard higher education as part of the school to work transition process. 

(4) A particular case in point concerns the question of learning outcomes. The UK policy analysis noted that policy emphasis on outcomes and qualifications was in effect shifting the focus from the learning process. The analysis concluded that a narrow focus on outcomes might be counter-productive in emphasising the outcome at the expense both of the process of learning and of the relationship between different types of learning (ie, formal and informal). Thus, the question of improving learning as such through informal learning will continue to be difficult for policy makers. 

Reference Further results of the policy analyses are set out in the final project report (Griffiths et al. 2001, pp. 21-28).
See also project info on WEX21C.
Descriptors D-WBL            
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Editor: Sabine Manning  © WIFO