Enhancing Skills Development in Work-Based Learning:

A Vital Imperative for Higher Education Educators

In today’s rapidly changing job market, the traditional model of higher education is facing a growing challenge. The demand for job-ready graduates with practical, real-world skills is rising. As a result, higher education institutions and educators must adapt their strategies to ensure students are well-prepared for the workforce. This adaptation often takes the form of work-based learning, a powerful approach to skill development. In this blog, we will explore the significance of skills development in work-based learning and strategies and best practices for Higher Education Educators to enhance skills development through Work-based Learning.

The Relevance of Skill Development in the Modern Workforce

In an era characterised by technological advancements and shifting economic landscapes, the skills required for success in the workplace are evolving at an unprecedented pace. The knowledge and abilities students acquire in higher education are becoming increasingly critical. According to a report from the World Economic Forum, at the end of 2022, approximately 50% of all employees required significant reskilling and upskilling. The above statistic highlights the urgent need for continuous skills development. Work-based learning is a powerful way for higher education institutions to address this requirement.

The Impact of Work-Based Learning on Skills Development

Work-based learning encompasses a range of approaches, from internships and co-op programs to apprenticeships and project-based assignments. These experiences provide students with the opportunity to apply academic knowledge in real-world contexts.A study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that students who completed internships were more likely to secure a job upon graduation, with an 82.7% success rate compared to 35.2% for those who didn’t.A survey by Universities Australia in 2019 found that 78% of students believe that work-integrated learning experiences helped them develop essential skills.These facts point to the effectiveness of work-based learning in preparing students for successful transitions to the workforce. It’s a testament to the importance of integrating such experiences into higher education curricula.

Challenges in Implementing Work-Based Learning for Skills Development

While work-based learning is a potent tool for skills development, it’s not without challenges. Higher education educators need to be aware of these obstacles and be able to navigate them to ensure the effectiveness of their programs. Let’s explore some key issues and challenges.
The American Institutes for Research found that while employers highly value work-based learning experiences, coordination and communication between higher education institutions and employers can be a significant challenge.
The 2020 QILT survey in Australia reported that only 43% of graduates had undertaken an internship, emphasising the need for more inclusive policies and practices and the ability for the program to be scaled relatively easily at low cost.  The above underscores the importance of strong partnerships between educators, employability program providers and employers to maximise the benefits of work-based learning.

Learn more on the benefits of gaining real-world experience in our ‘Effective Experiential Learning’ whitepaper

Strategies and Best Practices for Higher Education Educators to Enhance Skills Development Through Work-Based Learning

  • Curriculum Integration

    • Higher education institutions must integrate work-based learning seamlessly into their curricula. This requires creating flexible programs allowing students to engage in internships, co-ops, or apprenticeships without delaying graduation.
  • Industry Partnerships

    • Building strong partnerships with industries is essential. Collaboration should extend beyond internships and involve curriculum development, joint research projects, and mentorship programs. This ensures that students are learning relevant and up-to-date skills.
  • Holistic Student Support

    • To ensure equitable access, universities should offer comprehensive support services to help students secure work-based learning opportunities, regardless of their background or circumstances.
  • Assessment and Feedback

    • Assessment in work-based learning should be formative and summative, providing students with constructive feedback. This continuous evaluation aids skill development and fosters a deeper connection between academia and industry.

In conclusion, the imperative for higher education educators to enhance skills development through work-based learning is evident. The demand for job-ready graduates with practical skills continues to grow. To meet this demand, educators must incorporate work-based learning opportunities into their programs, leverage providers and partners to scale the program and establish strong partnerships with employers. By doing so, they can prepare their students for success in a dynamic and ever-evolving job market.

Learn more on the benefits of gaining real-world experience in our ‘Effective Experiential Learning’ whitepaper

Practera can Help You Launch a Successful Employability Skills Development with Real Industry Projects at Scale and Low Cost
Experiential learning is the key to building students’ employability. Yet, there isn’t a level playing field for students to access authentic industry experience and, therefore, top-tier jobs.
For 10 years, Practera has been partnering with more than 100 institutions & 1,000 employers to deliver award-winning student-industry projects. Online team-based industry projects offer substantial benefits, including:
  • Students apply skills/knowledge to industry scenarios– Employers gain value-add insights and access to graduate talent
  • Educators can offer inclusive work-based learning at lower cost, broader geographic reach and enhanced scalability
  • Plus, Practera’s unique program structure guarantees feedback for your learners along with authentic industry touchpoints
Practera’s industry experience programs make connecting your learners with organisations more effortless than ever. Past learners of Practera’s programs have enjoyed benefits such as enhanced social and professional connections, deeper motivation, real industry experience that employers value, virtual and remote working skills and a strong resume. The learners will also learn how to better present their skills, credentials, and experience in interview scenarios, seriously boosting their chances of landing their dream job after graduation!

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