3.3 Cooperation between schools and companies
3.3.2 Key success factors for ensuring a high quality WBL
As already mentioned, ensuring the high quality of a WBL programme is much more challenging than ensuring a VET school-based programme quality. It is true that frameworks and guidelines that apply to VET schools are not always applicable on the WBL programmes, due to the fact that they usually focus on what happens in the classroom, which is a more controlled environment, rather than on a workplace in which there are a lot of unpredictable factors. In the classroom, learning is thoroughly planned and structured, whereas in a workplace much of the learning is not planned or systematic; rather it often occurs randomly through experience, problem-solving and collaboration with others. Bearing that in mind, it is undeniable that policies to improve WBL quality can be thought of in several ways but all of them should aim towards high-quality inputs, organized processes that will be able to result in high-quality outcomes, and finally assessment in order to ascertain the quality of the outcomes and adjust the following steps.
One of the most important factors in order to achieve the aforementioned is to create strong links between VET schools and companies. VET schools, having the pedagogical background, should ensure that students are suitably trained and placed in programmes corresponding to their skills, competencies and objectives, and that participating companies have employees who can mentor and guide student participants through the programme. Moreover, schools must ensure that processes run smoothly through the programme. This can be achieved by continuous communication with participants (reporting, learning target-task diary, communication forms, etc.) and by regular actual visits of the responsible tutor in the workplace. Finally, schools must ensure that they get feedback and evaluation after the end of the work-based learning from both the companies and the students. This way the tutor can have an overall image of the whole WBL experience and make adjustments for similar programmes in the future.
Of course, it is evident that there should be a legal framework in order to not only regulate WBL as a process, but in order to ensure its high quality as well. This can be challenging since schools and companies have different quality cultures. Policymakers should bear that in mind and try to form connections between VET providers and companies, by highlighting the benefits that can be enjoyed by all participants, by supporting and educating VET providers as well as companies, and by providing mechanisms for cooperation between them.