The WBL-Q Self-Assessment and Stress Test Tool is designed to support any professional entrusted with the quality management of work-based learning processes in their company.
The online tool has been developed by a professional partnership within the framework of an Erasmus+ project, which was co-funded by the European Commission.
The theory behind the tool is based on the findings of a transnational investigation research study implemented in 2020 in Austria, Germany, Ireland, Hungary, Slovenia, and Spain as well as on well-established EU instruments such as EQAVET. While EQAVET offers quality assurance methodology for VET providers, the WBL-Q approach focuses on the specific situation of WBL in European companies.
By examining six main aspects that are the building blocks of the fundament of the work-based learning process, the quality of WBL processes is deducted through the self-assessment done. Each building block is defined by 3-4 key criteria, which are investigated through targeted questions in the online questionnaire.
In parallel to the quality assessment, a stress test is implemented to measure the answers in each criterion against 5 megatrends that will affect WBL processes in the future: Demographic Change, Digitalisation, Attractivity of VET, Inclusion and Diversity, and Sustainable and Solidaric Future.
BUILDING BLOCKS OF WBL QUALITY
The first building block of work-based learning quality is DESIGN. It focuses on the structural framework and the foundation set for the work-based learning processes in your company. In this stage, you are at the drawing board and make sure that the necessary pre-conditions are met by ensuring commitment to the WBL aims, adequate resources for the ongoing processes as well as transparency in objectives and regulations.
The second building block of work-based learning quality is IMPROVE. It focuses on how and to what extend the recruitment of WBL learners improves the situation of a company and what kind of processes are in place to facilitate the recruitment and onboarding.
The third building block of work-based learning quality is RESPOND. It focuses on the relationship between the company and the vocational education system and if the skillset of learners responds well to the company’s needs. Furthermore, it investigates the satisfaction level of the WBL actors (company, VET provider and learner) in order to respond to specific needs.
The fourth building block of work-based learning quality is COMMUNICATE. It focuses mainly on the communication style, setting and frequency between the WBL mentor and learner inside the company. However, it also explores the communication channels between the company and VET provider.
The fifth building block of work-based learning quality is TRAIN. It focuses on the real work-based learning setting in a company and the daily professional opportunities of learners and mentors.
The sixth building block of work-based learning quality is ASSESS. It focuses on the strategies in place that analyse the success of work-based learning in a company and to which extend improvement opportunities are detected and actioned.
The workforce in European companies is changing as more representatives of the Silver Generation make room for the younger Gen Z and Generation Alpha. Intergenerational communication has become an important asset as these generations differ in their preferred communication styles and channels. Managing this demographic change in the workforce is a megatrend that influences every aspect of social work environment.
With constantly advancing technology, more and more work processes happen in a digital framework and require digital skills. This megatrend has been affecting companies in all sectors for the past decades and will continue to influence professional life. The COVID-19 crisis has been an accelerator of digitalisation processes and made clear that WBL has to find strategies to happen via digital, online means, too.
Inclusion and Diversity
Employees and trainees are more diverse than ever before as they have different generational, educational, ethnic, and social backgrounds. As a consequence, they have different needs when it comes to their VET and WBL offers and providers should be ready to cater to these demands in order to assure a successful inclusion in their work force.
Attractiveness of VET
This megatrend affects both sides, the company/WBL provider and the trainee. On one hand, the company seeks to assure a skilled work force who are reliable and resilient employees. On the other hand, young people should again see VET as a first choice for an attractive career path, which has sadly decreased in the past years in favour of university education paths. Reigniting the benefits and advantages of a VET career is a megatrend that becomes more and more important in the next years.
Sustainable and Solidaric Future
Today’s social climate is heavily influenced by young people fighting for a more sustainable tomorrow. This thought of sustainability is not only rooted in the ecological sector, but extends to a solidaric society in which diversity and tolerance play a huge role. Young people demand a feasible work-life-balance and yearn for self-expression and fulfilment. Caring for the physical and mental health of employees is as important as caring for the well-being of the planet by making green, sustainable choices.
How can the quality of work-based learning be measured?
Work-based learning (WBL) can take many shapes and forms across Europe. From long-term dual systems that engage VET learners as apprentices to short-term WBL opportunities such as internships, job-placements and job-shadowing. Work-based learning always integrates a VET learner – either in their initial training or even continued training – in a company or organisation to gain real life work skills.
In any case, it is important for both sides to ensure a well-planned, executed and evaluated WBL process. Only a high-quality WBL process ensures a win-win situation for the WBL provider and the WBL learner. The resources available for planning and implementing the work-based learning processes are depending on the company’s size, their professional history in offering WBL and the general vocational education and training (VET) system in their country.
While large enterprises usually have specific financial and personnel resources dedicated to work-based learning, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) often do not have these resources available in the same extend. The persons responsible for the planning, implementation and quality evaluation of WBL might have multiple roles and can be company owners, WBL mentors, supervisors or shop stewards. In large companies, HR and personnel managers may oversee the work-based learning processes within the framework of onboarding and internal in-service trainings.