Skills beyond school

Work-based learning and productivity


 Read the OECD report: Work, train, win: Work-based learning design and management for productivity gains

The issue and scope

Work-based learning (WBL) is often seen as a powerful vehicle for developing workplace skills and promoting productivity of the labour force. Realising the potential of work-based learning requires firms and trainees to engage in work-based learning that effectively increases productivity. Understanding the dynamics of the costs and benefits of WBL and ensuring that those are reflected in the design of WBL schemes is essential to ensure that firms provide high-quality WBL and trainees perceive WBL as an attractive career option.

The focus of this module is on structured WBL schemes (e.g. apprenticeships, dual programmes, traineeships) – defined by a particular set of skills to be acquired over a fixed duration with specific funding arrangements. Structured WBL schemes are provided as a package with regulations regarding duration, content, requirements regarding firms and supervisors, monitoring schemes etc. Designing structured WBL schemes requires policy choices to be made – and only well-designed schemes can yield the expected benefits. The potential consequences of poorly designed WBL schemes include insufficient provision of WBL opportunities by firms, low take-up rate by learners, poor learning experience and limited productivity increases for learners and wasteful use of public resources.

This module explores issues surrounding work-based learning and productivity by providing background analysis of the underlying factors and mechanisms driving its use, and setting out a framework that identifies policy levers to support effective WBL.

Key steps

A workshop was held in London on 10 February 2016 and a discussion paper was shared with participants. At the event 50 participants from nine countries exchanged a host of ideas and innovations on how WBL schemes can balance the different interests of employers and trainees while maximising productivity benefits (see the blog post). Countries also shared experience with initiatives that support firms to offer high-quality work-based learning. Key messages from the workshop and analytical work on WBL and productivity were drawn together in a policy report that was published in May 2016.

Examples of policy questions explored

  • How does productivity evolve during work-based learning? How does this vary according to learner, occupation and firm characteristics?
  • How does the design of WBL schemes affect different stakeholders? How can the process for designing WBL schemes ensure that stakeholders’ interests are balanced and WBL effectively increases productivity?
  • Which stakeholders are involved in defining the duration, content and structure (i.e. how on-the-job and off-the-job components are organised) of WBL schemes in different countries?
  • How can the capacity of firms to deliver high-quality work-based learning be enhanced?


See also:




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How the work is being conducted

Papers and reports

Contact the team




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