Skills beyond school

Promoting equitable access for students



The issue and scope

The systematic use of work-based learning in school-based VET is an opportunity for students and the potential benefits are particularly large for those who otherwise might struggle in the transition to work (e.g. disadvantaged students, migrants). At the same time, the systematic use of work-based learning risks bringing to light inequities. Schools in different geographic locations will have access to differing local economic communities leading to variation in the quality and quantity of placements.  In some countries, students are asked to source placements for themselves. Students living in underprivileged areas will often have fewer job opportunities nearby and may be surrounded by family members and friends without a job or with low-skilled jobs reducing the scope for informal connections to employers through which placements are often found.

In response to these challenges, some countries have developed practical training in school workshops to cater for those unable to find work placements (e.g. Escuelas Taller in Spain, ÜBA courses in Austria, practice firms). Such approaches ensure that all students can benefit from practical training experiences, but have their limits. For example, they do not build connections with potential employers). Another approach focuses on helping students in the search of work-based learning opportunities. Students may receive help through courses in CV writing and interview techniques. Some schools have an outreach service to employers, leading to sustained connections with companies near the school to which students may go for work placement. In such circumstances, schools might act as intermediaries in the distribution of placements. In systems where it is common for vocational teachers to work part-time in industry, connecting to those companies may also be a route to finding a placement. 

Examples of policy questions explored

  • How to help all students to find high quality placements?
  • What are the benefits and limits of offering students unable to find placements practical training in school workshops?
  • How to encourage employers to provide work placements to disadvantaged students?
  • How to support employers offering work placements to disadvantaged students?

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