Why work-related learning works

Why work-related learning works

There’s nothing like work-related learning, whether it’s work experience facilitated by the school or simply a summer job, to help students evaluate their fit for a career and help them develop valuable 21st century skills.

The 2019 Education and Skills study, conducted by the CBI and Pearson, highlights the position of employers regarding the work-readiness skills of school leavers. The report states a number of key findings, including that ‘[b]eing ‘work ready’ remains a priority, with two in five (40%) reporting that they are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with wider character, behaviours, and attributes’ of school leavers entering the workforce. The same report also found that ‘[o]ne third (33%) are either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied by the amount of relevant work experience young people have’.

Work-related learning may be one of the key factors for helping students choose and prepare for a career that fits them, and it is essential to developing the 21st century skills we all need in today’s workforce.

What is Work-related Learning?

Any instructional strategies or programs that serve to connect the classroom and the workplace can be considered work-related learning.

It could be as structured as an apprenticeship or internship programme, or as easy to implement as a classroom-assigned research project that requires students to learn from someone in the working world.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) highlights 3 ways of defining work-based learning in the report Improving Work-based Learning in Schools:

  • WRL outside of any school programme
  • School-mediated WRL within the context of general education upper secondary programmes
  • School-mediated WRL within the context of vocational upper secondary programmes

Most secondary schools in the UK facilitate some form of work-related learning for their students to address the Gatsby Benchmarks and prepare students for real-world careers.

In the Department for Education’s report Work experience and related activities in schools and collegeswork experience is considered a key component of study programmes for all young people aged 16-19 years old, and the finding was that ‘the majority of schools and colleges offered work experience placements to all student (just 11 per cent of placement for years 10-11 and 23 per cent for years 12-13 were not open to all).’

Why is Work-related Learning Important?

The future of work is more undefined than ever before. It seems that the world, the economy, and the marketplace are changing almost minute to minute.

Advances in technology and the rise of artificial intelligence are creating career opportunities that we couldn’t have imagined even a few years ago. Our ever-evolving world, including a global pandemic and a long-overdue focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, are even changing the way people work.

Static information about careers is no longer relevant or helpful for the next generation of employees and entrepreneurs. Accustomed to unprecedented access to the world thanks to technology, today’s youth are most engaged in their education when they understand how it connects to their future. 

The OECD’s report stated that schools and colleges both recognised the importance of work-related activities but that the primary benefits of each differed by institution. Schools considered the primary benefit of work experience to be ‘understanding the world of work’, while colleges ‘placed more value on an increase in students’ wider employability skills’.

How to Incorporate Work-related Learning Activities and Assignments into your School’s Careers Programme

Ideas include:

  • Building connections with employers in the community: For a more personal approach, careers professionals or work experience coordinators can develop relationships with a diverse number of employers and professionals and invite them to share their experiences and wisdom. These connections can be leveraged for activities like career fairs, field trips, guest lecturers, and job shadowing.
  • Mentorships: Encourage and support students to identify and approach a mentor who works in the field they are considering. Coach them on how to set up meetings so they can ask questions and learn about the work they do.
  • Real-world and/or social entrepreneurship: For students interested in running their own business, a culminating project for an appropriate A-level class could be to launch a business or social initiative.
  • Design projects and activities that help develop employability skills: Students in secondary school can begin to work on projects or assignments that increase awareness of career exploration and future readiness. These could be as straightforward as research assignments that identify and describe specific careers or they could be more reflective and leverage a work experience opportunity as the basis for a report summarising what the student learned during their experience.


How Xello Can Help You Facilitate Work Experience and Work-related Learning

Xello now has an add-on module focusing on work-related learning.

Among other functions, it will help work experience coordinators or careers professionals provide all students with easy access to the work-related learning opportunities available in their community. The main goal is to help create connections between workplaces and schools, and empower careers leaders to better report on encounters as part of Gatsby Benchmark reporting for Ofsted and SLT.

The stakes for choosing a fulfilling and sustainable career are higher than ever. The expansion of work-related learning programmes could be the answer many students need to help them get on the right track.