Stimulating debate on current and emerging work-based learning issues in Scotland

Event summary    |     Key messages


Dr. Anthony Mann

Debate on Vocational Education & Training and Work-based Learning

The Centre for Work-based Learning is a key player in stimulating debate on current and emerging work-based learning issues in Scotland, and though a series of PRAXIS events, we intend to provide a forum for discussion. The first event brought together senior colleagues across Scottish public-sector agencies, academia and the private sector, and acted as a vehicle to showcase work-based learning research.

Dr. Anthony Mann drew on insight from his extensive research in the field of VET and work-based learning. He spoke about increasing aspirations and the attractiveness of VET, designing programmes to make them attractive to individuals and employers and the changing cohort of people who participate in VET and the barriers they face.

PRAXIS 1 – key messages

Earlier this month we held an event to debate the future of work-based learning in Scotland. The event brought together senior colleagues across Scottish public-sector agencies, academia and the private sector and saw Dr Anthony Mann, Head of Vocational Education & Training (VET) and Adult Learning, Directorate for Education and Skills at the, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), deliver a compelling presentation which assessed the importance of apprenticeships and work-based learning.

The thought provoking discussion by Dr Mann was the first of a series of events that we’re running throughout this year, with the aim being to further the discussion of the future of work-based learning in Scotland. Dr Mann and his team have been looking at the topic of vocational education and training for over a decade and regularly publish new research on this topic.


Understanding the work-based learning landscape

Dr Mann began his discussion by looking at how vocational training and work-based learning can help organisations respond to changes in society. He noted how he and his team approach improving policy by learning from comparative international data, including country examples and academic literature. This includes:

  • Assessing work-based learning and its productivity
  • Assessing the cost and benefits of apprenticeships
  • Assessing work-based learning incentives and opportunities
  • Recognising the skills learnt through work-based learning
  • Assessing work-based learning and the school-to-work transition
  • Assessing career guidance and employer engagement.


Engaging employers on education

Dr Mann notes that there needs to be a strategic approach to employer engagement in education. There is strong evidence that this will:

  • Boost young people’s understanding of jobs and careers
  • Provide knowledge and skills demanded by a contemporary job market
  • Provide knowledge and skills demanded for successful work-to-school transitions
  • Enrich education and underpin pupil attainment.


There are many big trends shaping work-based learning

OECD data shows that young people’s aspirations across the world have risen considerably and that they now spend a higher proportion of time in education when compared to previous generations. As a result, VET training providers should consider that a greater proportion of people who will use them will be from higher and further education backgrounds. This means that providers should make sure VET is as attractive as possible, with good progression against more ‘traditional’ learning routes.

Another key trend that Dr Mann discussed was that teenagers are now less likely to work and study at the same time. Young people are more focused on the idea that they need to stay in school and study, but the impact of this is that they are losing out on first-hand work experience. Equally employers don’t have the demand for such unskilled labour that teenagers used to do, because of automation and technology.

At the forefront of big trends is the fact that many jobs in the future may no longer exist due to automation and that many jobs will need to be diversified, which is where work-based learning could help.

Finally, job security is changing, and this prompts us to think not just about young people, but also older people. The nature of work is also changing, and apprenticeships and work-based learning will need to be delivered for people who may not be working for large organisations in a full-time job, working 9-5.

Big changes and big questions include:

  • How can we ensure that VET is relevant in a dynamic labour market?
  • How can we ensure that VET works for adults in at risk in the labour market?
  • What’s the right balance between technical skills and a general education?

The discussion ended by looking at how the cost benefit analysis for employers needs to be improved to ensure work-based learning works. Some key takeaways are:

  • How do we engage employers on VET?
  • How do we make VET a pathway to future learning?
  • How can we accommodate VET and the changing nature of work?

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