Collaborative Work-based Learning: building a sustainable approach

Irene Sheridan
Cork Institute of Technology

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Deirdre Goggin
Cork Institute of Technology

Sharon Lehane
Cork Institute of Technology

How can universities work with employers and employees in a planned tripartite arrangement to support employability and the development of knowledge skills and competence to meet not just current but also emerging workplace needs?
The New Skills Agenda for Europe (EU Commission, 2016) and the recommendation on key competences for lifelong learning (EU Council, 2018) stress the need for ongoing opportunities for reskilling and upskilling. The Digital Education Action Plan (EU Commission , 2018) points to the 90% of future roles that will require some level of Digital Skills.
The World Economic Forum (World Economic Forum, 2018) report on the future of jobs further underlines the reskilling imperative, stating that by 2022, no less than 54% of all employees will require significant re- and upskilling. The report points to the need for an agile learning mindset and the need for companies to proactively develop a lifelong learning system which recognises existing knowledge and unlocks tacit workplace knowledge while collaborating with educators to invest in human capital as a key enabler for productivity and growth. The potential for university-business collaboration in lifelong learning, among other things, is detailed in the report on the State of University-Business Cooperation in Europe (Baaken et al. 2018) and it is clear that many countries in Europe are not achieving targets for lifelong learning.
Globalisation and the increased use of digital technologies mean that workplaces, as well as broader society, are experiencing significant challenges and changes. The nature of work is evolving, and it is generally accepted that the number of people who will undertake and keep a job for life will be very few. The idea that the particular set of knowledge, skills and competence acquired while an undergraduate will be applied over the remainder of a career is long past. It is generally recognised that learning, whether formal, non-formal or informal will be attained throughout life and that this learning has value in the context of current and future workplace applications. Lifelong learning including the process of reflecting on and recognising existing knowledge, skills and competence as well as planning for, and acquiring, new knowledge is a key part of maintaining employability in a complex and dynamic workplace.
This workshop will work through the practical elements involved in developing new educational opportunities for those in the workforce. Based on many years of experience with large and small organisations, a framework has been developed which encompasses joint development of recognised destination awards including recognition of prior learning and the planned acquisition of learning outcomes not just ‘at’ but ‘through’ work in supported quality assured framework.
Participants will contribute to the exploration of the barriers and challenges both inside the Higher Education Institution and in the learning workplace and the commitment of the learner, the employer and the academic champion will be explored.