policy analyses have revealed major issues in promoting work experience:
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.
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.
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.
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.