Understanding Work‐based Learning

Andrea Sossi (Nova Southeastern University, Ft Lauderdale, Florida, USA)

Journal of European Industrial Training

ISSN: 0309-0590

Article publication date: 30 August 2011



Sossi, A. (2011), "Understanding Work‐based Learning", Journal of European Industrial Training, Vol. 35 No. 7, pp. 744-746. https://doi.org/10.1108/03090591111160832



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Book synopsis

This book is written in response to “the changing nature of work” (p. 15). The editor's eludes to a gap between what is learned in the workplace and what is learned at universities, as each does not consistently recognise learning from the other (p. 7), which poses challenges and difficulties for the academic world, organisations and learners.

This book focuses on one avenue in which specific employer and learner needs are met through work‐based learning. Work‐based learning is made up of a variety of learning styles and methods in response to meeting the changing demands of the workplace (p. 21). The editors bring to the reader's attention the evolution of higher education, as well as theory and definitions of work‐based learning. Building on that foundation, the book offers detailed information focused on the responsibilities of each of the parties involved and the process of how work‐based learning is implemented. The editors describe how the learning is assessed through validity, sufficiency, currency and quality (p. 57), as well as rewarded and recognised through APEL and self‐evaluations. Learning limitations, challenges, and benefits are also discussed. The book continues by diving deeper into the support systems that have been deliberately created and made available to aid learners to be successful.

The book includes numerous case studies that describe a variety of real life experiences of learners who achieved a degree or higher level certificate through work‐based learning. Chapter twenty organises and showcases the data collected from the case studies to evaluate work‐based learning through identifying the key strengths, weaknesses and areas needing improvement.

Work‐based learning is attractive to both an employer and a learner as it meets the short and long‐term needs and goals of both the employer and employee/learner. This type of learning is developed through the joint efforts of employers and universities to tailor specific curricula to meet specific employer needs while using university standards and guidelines to ensure consistency and validity. One benefit is that the learner can immediately apply the knowledge and skills learned at work while simultaneously earning credits toward a degree or certificate recognised by a higher education institution. This form of learning is geared toward developing an employee for work related growth, knowledge, and development.


The book is well structured and delivered in an organised fashion. As a reader, I found the material to build upon what is previously shared. The content is descriptive, without being analytical; which I believe would lose the reader's attention. The main idea of the book is focused on the process of work‐based learning (p. 7) and is written for employers, employees who are learners, those working in academia, researchers and policy makers.

The editors take a non‐traditional approach in which learners can obtain education through a relationship created between organisations and universities who together meet the needs and goals of the learner, employer, and university. The editors clearly define work‐based learning as the learning that takes place on the job, which differs from workplace learning which focuses on the development of a particular skill set needed to perform a job (p. 21). Work‐based learning offers many benefits that traditional education programs may not offer, such as employees experiencing support from employers while juggling school and workloads. All the while, employees also obtain higher education credit as universities are recognising the learning by awarding an accredited degree or certificate program. On the other hand, employers benefit from employees increased interest in the job and the developments and contributions made to the organisation during the learning (p. 26).

There is a much focus on the validity and assessment models that support the quality of work‐based learning. The learning consists of standards and assessment measures to ensure accuracy and consistency in the creation, facilitation, evaluation, and rewarding of the learning, to ensure university and employer standards are upheld.

The editors include the importance of mentor support to provide guidance to learners. As shown in a number of the case studies, learners who take advantage of this form of learning are self‐motivated, yet struggle to manage time required to accomplish work, education, and personal responsibilities. Having a mentor to encourage learners during times of doubt, provide advice when direction is needed all aid in the success as learners experience the process of work‐based learning.

The case studies included prove that work‐based learning is beneficial to meeting employee and employer needs. Each case study includes details surrounding the learner's needs, personal benefits and limitations of work‐based learning as well as challenges and successes achieved. For many, work‐based learning provided an opportunity to obtain an education and a reach a new level in professional development that may not have been possible otherwise.

In the editor's own words

The changing nature of work is relevant to the integration of work‐based learning into higher education in that it points to significant changes in the “content” or curriculum of higher education programmes, as well as where and how it should be delivered or achieved (p. 15).

Reviewer's details

Andrea Sossi, MA, isAcademic Advisor II, Accounting and Taxation Graduate Programs at Nova Southeastern University, Ft Lauderdale, Florida, USA. She earned both her master's in Counselling and bachelor's in Human Resource Development at Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan, USA. She had worked as a HR professional for six years for a non‐profit organisation, small and large public corporations. Her most recent position is an Academic Advisor for graduate level students for the Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University. Andrea Sossi can be contacted at: andreasossi1203@gmail.com

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