Notes on the International BiBB Conference „Work-based Learning in Europe – Renewing Traditions“

An international conference „Work-based Learning in Europe – renewing traditions“ took place on 4/5 December 2013 at the German Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) in Bonn. Around 100 participants held a discussion with European partners on various models of work-based learning in apprenticeship and “best fit” solutions designed for „work-based learning“ in vocational training.

The back-story of this expertise is that numerous bilateral cooperation agreements are currently being set up to investigate how company-based and school-based learning might be better combined within the respective national context. Endeavours to reduce youth unemployment include modernisation of vocational education and training systems in accordance with a model of company-related VET.

The conference as well as keynote speaker Prof. Dr. Reinhold Weiß (BiBB) underlined the importance of different models of work-based learning in VET – but, without a side glance on individualised support for advanced vocational training (AVT) of employees at their workplace! Of course the core statement applies to both scopes – VET and AVT: Work-based learning is characterized by diversified and challenging practical tasks which have to be mastered independently with supporting accompaniment.

Birgit Thomann (BiBB) stressed that work-based learning is the heart of understanding the dual system in Germany, because it is incorporated within the formal system of initial VET. Education policy appears to have an increasing demand for concepts and tools that help VET experts, policymakers and advisors to take stock of the state of VET systems and to propose options for adjustment, work-based learning as the most required concept. Moreover, she realized a relatively weak empirical evidence in regard to what works, how and why in international VET cooperation and in a cross-country comparison. Inspiring is the continuing process of sharing experiences, adapting new practices, involving economic and political stakeholders and opting for a process of learning from each other.

Wilhelm Vukovich (EU-Commission) reminded of usual definitions of work-based learning (WBL). From the narrow interpretations “Learning through undertaking real authentic work, through the production of real goods and services” (Sweet, 2011) to the broader interpretation of CEDEFOP: “Acquisition of knowledge and skills through carrying out – and reflecting on – tasks in a vocational context, either at the workplace or in a VET institution” (Cedefop, 2011/2013). The Commission’s WBL definition is covering primarily initial vocational education and training. However, a slide chart of Vukovich classified In-company trainings of employees as a very high (highest) intensity/frequency of work-based activities.

Remarkable statistics were provided by Dr. Philipp Grollmann (BIBB) about induction times. “Induction Time” means the time, until newly hired career entrants perform their work as well as experienced employees: In Germany within first 12 months, in Spain within 12 to 60 months.

Annalisa Schnitzler (BiBB) sumed up in her presentation that learning and practical work cannot be separated from each other. And Learning is always a social process, too. Work-based learning maps the model of full action.

For more information: The documentation of this conference is available here …

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