Co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union

Obstacles to WBL

In general, WBL is more complicated to organise than school-based learning owing to the involvement of a number of actors and, in particular, to the significant roles of the private sector and employer representatives. It is also subject to the regulations governing not only education and training but also employment (i.e. labour law, health and safety). Obstacles to policies supporting WBL often stem from the complex interplay between the state and employers and from the specific nature of this type of learning, often less visible and measurable than formal learning acquired outside of the workplace.

  • Obstacles to the best public policy support. Since WBL is a very broad concept, encompassing many different forms and levels, decision makers may find it difficult to decide which WBL to support and what form the support should take take.
  • Obstacles to the recognition of WBL. Two key issues are whether non-formal and informal learning leads to nationally recognised qualifications and whether these certificates have real currency in the labour market and are recognised by other companies.
  • Lack of legal structure and lack of data. Lack of a regulatory framework for WBL (i.e. Student’s identity or insurance) is often seen as an important obstacle to its expansion.
  • Obstacles to ensuring the quality of WBL. Some authors argue that the apprenticeship model and WBL in general is overly romanticised and that its weaknesses in terms of learning quality tend to be underestimated. If workplaces and work practices are not learning-conducive and the potential for learning is low, WBL will obviously be less effective than other modalities, or even ineffective.
  • Availability of WBL opportunities and coordination with employers. The limited availability of places for apprenticeships, internships and other forms of WBL is a key problem. Availability may even change over time as the provision of places is sensitive to economic cycles, and employers will not always be interested in investing time and resources in WBL. A low level of involvement on the part of social partners and stakeholders and weak links between schools and employers are key challenges to the implementation of a robust WBL system.
  • Negative views. WBL is often seen by parents and learners as a second-best educational alternative, and thesame perception has also negatively influenced policy making. Some employers view WBL not so much as an investment in future skills but rather as a way to sustain low-cost production.

With the People and WBL Project, we want to overcome some of these obstacles and thus trying to improve the VET system, since a properly functioning VET system including both on-the-job and off-the-job learning can make a strong contribution to economic development and social cohesion.

SOURCE: (European Training Foundation, 2013) Work-based learning: Benefits and obstacles, A Literature review for policy makers and social partners in ETF partner countries