22 SES 07 A, Teaching, Learning and Assessment in Higher Education
The need to up-skill the workforce has been identified in a range of literature. For example, the Leitch Review of Skills (2006) sets short-term and long-term goals for UK education; the Cogent Skills Review (Cogent SSC, 2008) outlines future priorities that affect science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) industries; whilst the UK Government White Paper, Skills for Growth (BIS, 2009) refers to the importance of increasing the number of formalised qualifications obtainable within industry. This up-skilling necessitates stronger cooperation between employers and higher education institutions (HEIs) to produce work- based learning (WBL) qualifications that will benefit industry. Further, according to human capital theory (Becker, 1993), there is a positive correlation between an individual’s level of education and capacity to earn, so there is a monetary incentive for employees to improve their level of qualifications in order to progress in their career.
WBL is difficult to define. It has been viewed as both part of an academically accredited programme and a structured workplace learning programme (McKee and Burton, 2005); the up-skilling and reskilling of an organisation’s employees (Nixon et al., 2006); and all and any learning that is situated in the workplace or arises directly out of workplace concerns (Lester and Costley, 2010). It is influenced by the needs of the three major stakeholders, encompassing the life plan of the individual learner; the business plan of the employer; and the corporate plan of the provider, i.e. the HEI (Penn et al., 2005). WBL in this context also includes negotiated WBL learning programmes which involve substantive contribution by the learner. This allows a learner to customise a programme to their individual needs and prior learning experiences, thus enabling them to more effectively meet their own development targets.
The study aimed to address the following primary and secondary research questions:
1. How is WBL leading to qualifications perceived by University staff?
a) How is it perceived at strategic level?
b) How is it perceived at operational level?
2. How can WBL be improved for the wider benefit of the labour market?
a) What are the enablers that help HEIs to provide successful WBL?
b) What are the barriers that make it difficult for HEIs to offer effective WBL programmes?
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