In January 2012, the European Council agreed that Member States should increase “substantially the number of apprenticeships and traineeships to ensure that they represent real opportunities for young people, in cooperation with social partners and where possible integrated into education programmes.” This form of VET has proven to effectively achieve better individual professional development in terms of employability. Since committing to the Bruges Communiqué, more and more Member States are transitioning towards an increased share of work-based learning (WBL) in their VET landscapes.

For obvious reasons, in-company trainers play a crucial role in WBL. They are the key actor in the company that plans and implements the training, selects apprentices / trainees, guides and accompanies them in their learning processes, provides preparation for assessment and certification, ensures a balance between the company’s and the individual’s competence needs and contributes in a major way to the quality and success or failure of WBL. However, particularly in those countries that have hitherto had no or few WBL-pathways in their education system, there are very few, if any, qualification offers for this key target group in the transition towards WBL. This creates a great divide.

Recently, more and more European cooperation initiatives have sprung up that address exactly this issue: the qualification and professionalisation of in-company training personnel. Such initiatives are sometimes part of greater policy transfer projects towards increased WBL or sometimes aim at paving the way of such transitions only by training the key actors of WBL. The Erasmus+ project “Level-up” deals with exactly this issue: the qualification and professionalisation of in-company training personnel in Europe. We compare the situation in different European countries and learn from one another. One element of the project is to implement a European training programme for in-company trainers from six different countries. Peer-to-peer learning for trainers is at the core of this training programme.

Because of the great diversity of the European VET landscape, not only does the share and relevance of WBL schemes differ from country to country, but also what is understood by WBL. In practice, the Commission distinguish between three different models of WBL:

  • The apprenticeship model: which is represented by alternating dual training models represented in the Level-up project by Germany and Austria
  • School-based programmes with on the job learning periods: these are typically internships or traineeships that are a compulsory element of a school-based training programme
  • School-based programmes with simulated WBL elements: for example labs, practical teaching elements, kitchens or workshops.

(For more information on the three types of WBL you can refer to the Publication: Work-based learning in Europe – Practices and Policy Pointers, European Commission, June 2013)

In our project, we focus on the first and second type of WBL and we find increasingly many transitional forms that are emerging in the shift towards WBL. For the purpose of our network debate, a debate that we have initiated among trainers of Europe and European stakeholders of in-company training. What we have also found in the process of our network debate is that a very important role also falls to the VET teachers, particularly in countries that are experiencing transition initiatives from school-based VET towards increased dual training. The VET teachers are often the experts of VET and as there are no established support structures (yet) for training companies (such as standardised training offers, support for training companies through chambers, etc.), teachers often assume the role of advisor, trainer, consultant for training companies. This is valuable insight for our network debate.

In the coming weeks we want to take a closer look at some cases of transition, we want to take a closer look at the different forms in which the transition towards WBL takes place and what this means for our own target group – the in-company trainers.

We will look at the Greek experience and the role of trainers in hotels as an Greek-German initiative established the dual training system in the hospitality sector. We will examine the role of teachers and in-company trainers in the planned shift towards increased dual training in Finland. We will hear from the experience of Basque VET school teachers as they work hard towards a greater share of dual training programmes in the Basque country.

We welcome your comments and input to this discussion. If you have any experience in this area or would like us to include other examples of WBL approaches, please get in touch or comment the article.