While Work-based Learning has a plethora of benefits for participants as well as communities, it also has some potential challenges and risks that need to be kept in mind by those that develop, deliver or take part in WBL programmes.
First of all, as already mentioned, governance, regulation and funding of WBL are much more complex than traditional school-based systems. WBL programmes consist a form of employment, and as a result are subject to employment regulations (labour law, health and safety regulations, etc.). Students temporarily become employees and employers assume a number of risks related to the integration of inexperienced learners in their production, as well as health and safety hazards. None of these challenges applies to in-classroom training. In addition, obstacles to policies appear as a result of this complex cooperation between the State (and VET Schools) and the employers. Moreover, due to the aforementioned and the nature of WBL, the learning outcomes are not always visible, measurable and controllable, and the extent to which students acquire competences varies considerably from one workplace to another, depending on each case and the support received.
Furthermore, some of the challenges that are found in WBL are of the same nature as school-based learning challenges. One such challenge is related to the workload and responsibilities of students, bearing in mind that they still need to attend courses at school and also work. Another challenge has to do with the training and qualifications of tutors and WBL responsibles from companies who have a crucial role in the learning delivery. Bearing in mind the complex concept of WBL, it is important to ensure that all responsibles are well trained and informed and are on common terms as far as WBL issues are concerned, so that the student participant does not receive conflicting or confusing messages between theory and practice. As a result, learning processes have to be up-to-date in order to reflect current workplace practices.
The aforementioned potential challenges and risks for WBL have to be taken into consideration by those that develop, deliver, supervise, mentor but also participate in WBL programmes. Most of these challenges can be avoided or tackled with appropriate policies, thorough planning and preparation, and actual commitment by all participants involved.