Work-based learning (WBL) in Vocational education and training (VET) provides important benefits, by increasing employability and smoother school to work transition. It contributes to reducing skill shortages and gaps, reduces youth unemployment, increases entrepreneurship and innovation and finally has the potential to foster social inclusion. In view of these potential benefits, European VET ministers underlined the increasing need to promote WBL in all its forms and the need to introduce systematic approaches to and opportunities for initial and continuous professional development of VET teachers, trainers and mentors in both school and work based settings across the EU in the Riga conclusions (2015).
As information on VET practitioners is fragmented and a systematic analysis of professional practices in Member States in WBL is lacking, Panteia together with our partners LSE and Ockham-IPS, performed a study for DG EMPL with the aim to provide the ET 2020 Working Group on VET (2016-2018) with findings on three key areas:
governance arrangements in place for professionals involved in WBL;
professionalisation arrangements for those professionals; and finally,
in what way cooperation between schools and companies is arranged, focusing on the quality of the professionals involved.
The study brings data together from thematic country perspectives by Cedefop’s Refernet, interviews, and additional data collection to allow a cross-country analysis. The study identified existing frameworks, policy approaches and cooperation at national, regional and organisational level across the EU28. We identified qualifications/competence profiles, methodologies, cross-institutional networking opportunities and schemes for systematic professional development and good practice examples. In addition, case studies were conducted on existing practices of cooperation between teachers and trainers in WBL in 10 Member States. The study also took into account five examples from projects and initiatives (from Lifelong Learning Programme and Erasmus+ programme or other national or EU programmes) related to governance and professionalisation of teachers and trainers in WBL. Based on this body of evidence collected, the study provides suggestions for further study following a set of key findings:
The role of teachers in VET institutions is generally well defined, and further elaborated through minimum competence requirements. In VET institutions, teachers are part of broader regulatory frameworks that apply to the entire education and training system. Except for a few cases, the role of trainers in companies is less specifically defined. The role and competences of trainers in companies are generally defined by sectors and the minimum trainer requirements are generally not expressed in terms of specific trainer competences, but focus on years of experience and position (management) in the company.
Teachers are better covered in VET governance frameworks than trainers who work in companies.
Concerning topics covered in governance frameworks, also here trainers are less covered compared to teachers in work-based learning. Particular areas that lack coverage concern trainers’ working conditions and payment, international mobility and dealing with learners’ special needs.
The arrangements for professional development are available more for teachers in VET institutions than for trainers in companies. In addition, the ‘professionalisation continuum’, a general framework for teacher / trainer professional development, does not align well with the trainers in company and to some extent with the teachers in WBL in VET institutions.
Cooperation on quality of teachers and trainers in WBL is better ensured in countries where the VET governance is organised as a cooperative system and where all relevant stakeholders are involved.
Cooperation should not be seen as an end in itself but as a tool to improve the quality of VET and its responsiveness to the labour market needs.
Cooperation on the quality of teachers and trainers works better when VET is attractive and companies are willing to take part in cooperation.
Given that work-based learning and the learning-outcome approach are becoming more prominent in VET, cooperation arrangements and continuous dialogue between the involved learning venues is becoming an essential part of a functioning WBL.