The issue and scope
International experience suggests that work placements tend to work best when they are credit bearing and formally integrated into the curriculum, so that work-based and school-based learning effectively complement each other. Integration of learning in the workplace with classroom teaching values the distinctive learning opportunities provided by work-based learning, including both technical skills and the soft skills, like team working and communication skills, which allow an individual to be personally effective in work. Quality assurance mechanisms need to support this, while leaving sufficient flexibility to ensure employers are not discouraged from offering placements by overly stringent regulation. The challenges and opportunities will be different depending on how work placements are structured (e.g. end of programme internship, or work placement one day per week). Students develop occupation relevant skills in different settings (such as school workshops, external training centres, and company premises) and through different approaches. For example, students can be put in a real work situation or simulate work tasks in a workshop. Decision on where and how to train depends on skills that students should develop.
The effort required to build strong linkages between learning at school and at the workplace may also have broader benefits. For example, it may give teachers an opportunity to learn about current technologies and work practices and encourage them to connect their teaching to the expectations of real work environments. Linkages between schools and workplaces may also facilitate the organisation of work placements for teachers to keep their vocational skills up-to-date. The analysis will address these issues and highlight examples of good practice in this area.
Examples of policy questions explored