Work-based learning has rapidly risen up the policy agenda in recent years, particularly in the European Union. This trend is also evident from national and international debates, and from the design of new policies for system reforms in vocational education and training. Efforts to strengthen work-based learning in vocational education are increasingly common among our partner countries, as they seek to improve the skills and employability of young people, and ultimately the economic competitiveness and social inclusion. Work-based learning is often described as a win-win-win situation as it provides benefits for all major stakeholders involved – for the learner, for the employer and for society.
Employers, social partners, and other relevant stakeholders are therefore looking to increase their participation in vocational education and training system governance, as they seek to adjust training programmes to meet the requirements of twenty-first century labour markets.
Work-based learning programmes are relevant for all levels of vocational education and training – initial, post-secondary and CVET and can be implemented in any sector, from industry to services and agriculture. They are particularly relevant in sectors experiencing the most rapid structural and technological changes, or where the infrastructure of schools does not allow for proper practical training.
Apprenticeships, as a major type of work-based learning, play a very important role for tackling youth unemployment through ‘earning while learning’ contracts. Many partner countries have shown policy interest in apprenticeship/dual education and have started to implement pilot projects or structural reform.
Our recent work has focused on tools and handbooks that help policymakers and social partners to develop and implement work-based learning, including in the area of financing. The ETF also supports the five EU candidate countries to enhance work-based learning, a commitment made by their Ministers through the so-called Riga Process and through their membership of the European Alliance for Apprenticeships (EAfA). Managed by the European Commission, the alliance promotes the quality, supply, image and mobility of apprenticeship and work-based learning. It is a platform for companies, chambers of commerce, practitioners and other social partners to work together with the Commission and national governments.