Landstede’s program trains students to work in a practical profession. This requires the acquisition of knowledge, skills and the “right attitude”. In order to train novice professionals, it is necessary to acquire theoretical knowledge and practical experience, and understand the links between them. Landstede’s courses combine work-based learning with a strong link between the theory which is learnt at school and practice which is learnt in the workplace. Students attend school for two days each week with three days in the workplace of which one day is focused on education. When at work, students learn in mixed year groups and receive individualised guidance from the VET school and a teacher from the workplace. Learners are encouraged to use their experiences to make links between practice and theory.
Brief description of the example
To illustrate the model used by Landstede, this case study looks at the Level 4 qualification teaching assistants. As with all Landstede’s courses, trainees spend two days each week in school, two days learning in practice (BPV) and one day teaching at the internship. The school-based aspects of training focus on theoretical subjects; during their BPV students learn how to practise, and the internship day focuses on helping the students understand and value the link between theory and practice. Students from all years of the qualification form a learning group which is supported by two learning tutors – one from the VET school and one from the employer. In this learning group, students share their experiences and link them to theory.
This new form of work-based learning began in the 2013-2014 academic year. The two main reasons for reshaping this aspect of learning were the need for more control over the quality of learning in the workplace and the need to create a clearer link between theory and practice. The new system reduced the number of placement companies from 200 to 20 and enabled the VET school to select employers who had the best experience. Landstede has created a new student internship guide, focused more on students’ learning, enabled the development of the work-based supervisors’ coaching skills and increased the willingness of the employees of the internship to learn and develop themselves. Landstede has appointed experts to support the employers, increased its expectations about the number of trainees each company will take, and required employees to undertake training to work with students.
Before starting this new arrangement, Landstede undertook a pilot project with five companies. The aim of the pilot was to optimise the organisation of work-based learning, gain experience, learn lessons and improve. At the heart of this new approach is the qualifying exam. This takes the form of an aptitude test. Both the VET school provision and the work-based practice are aimed at helping students prepare for this aptitude test.
Securing the quality
To guarantee the quality of the work based learning Landstede undertakes a number of activities.
- firstly, it provides good information and coordination with each of the placement companies. Within the educational assistant Level 4 qualification, five VET school teachers supervise the training and learning group. Each takes responsibility for a fifth of the training companies. This helps to ensure that the contact between these teachers and the training companies is intensive. In their actions, the teachers take account of the perspectives of all three parties: the student, the company and the school. The focus is on developing a partnership with clear agreements on mutual obligations and expectations which can benefit all parties. The quality of provision has to be central and decisions have to be made in consultation. The lines of communication and control are short as this gives each coordinator responsibility for all organisational matters regarding the internship.
- secondly Landstede provides professional support for employers during each student’s internship. The placement companies commit themselves to participating in these training events. These courses cover guiding and assessing; and video material based on real examples are used to encourage discussion and reflection
- thirdly Landstede evaluates the practice. In January an interim evaluation is agreed for the next six months. During the spring there i a final evaluation. Each coordinator is involved in the evaluation so that they can ask for the information that they themselves would like to know. The evaluation also includes the views of students and placement companies. Following this evaluation, improvement actions are identified and implemented. Information from each of the 20 companies can be collated, conclusions drawn and improvement measures identified. There is a strong sense that this new form of work-based learning is working though evaluation and adjustment is needed. This cyclical approach to quality improvement is central to the work of the coordinators and the learning group facilitators.
- finally the proceeds of the final evaluation will be shared with all stakeholders . Students are informed about any changes. The Boards of the companies are informed of achieved goals and the allocation of funding for training. It is a transparent way of working, and adjustments are made in accordance with the experiences of the coordinators. The evaluation of the quality of the training companies is part of the evaluation, and decisions about whether the company continues to be involved are based on this evaluation.
Landstede is searching for a better way to organise work based learning. In their new arrangements, cooperation with the companies has intensified, and this has created a culture of quality. The VET school is still mostly responsible for the content and quality of provision. However teachers feel responsible for the quality of work based learning as implementation and organisation are in their hands. These VET-school teachers are close to practice and they can use assessment data to make immediate improvements. Through joint evaluations there is a growing awareness of quality.