Ruth Helyer (Department of Academic Enterprise, Teesside University, Middlesbrough, UK)

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning

ISSN: 2042-3896

Article publication date: 9 May 2016


Helyer, R. (2016), "Editorial", Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. 6 No. 2. https://doi.org/10.1108/HESWBL-03-2016-0011



Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Article Type: Editorial From: Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Volume 6, Issue 2.

Welcome to Issue 2, Volume 6 of Higher Education Skills and Work-based Learning, the official journal of UVAC (the University Vocational Awards Council). Once again the issue brings together exciting original research about work-based learning and its opening paper “The development of a mapping tool for work-based learning activities” (Tina Overton and Tomasz Lemanski) is a case study that usefully describes a new mapping tool for designing and evaluating work-based elements within higher education programmes, or indeed the whole programme. The tool is based on the matrix of university-centred delivery, employer-centred delivery and learners’ outcomes.

Following on from this our second paper sees Louisa Feldmann consider whether these outcomes include greater employability, in “Considerations in the design of WBL settings to enhance students’ employability – a synthesis of individual and contextual perspectives”. The paper examines the factors that influence students’ skills and competences in WBL settings, hopefully leading to improved employability.

The paper also synthesises the relevant international empirical research on beneficial effects of work-based internships, to create a research framework that spans subject disciplines. The author uses the findings to make some recommendations for improving WBL settings – taking the workplace, the student and the university into account – and makes some useful linkages between situated and experiential theory.

Continuing with the theme of employability Phan Vo Minh Thang and Winai Wongsurawat offer “Enhancing the employability of IT graduates in Vietnam”; a paper that identifies the key determinants of employability of Information Technology (IT) graduates in Vietnam and examines their impact on self-perceived employability and the duration of the job search. Based on data collected from more than 500 IT graduates from different higher education institutions in Vietnam, the paper argues that the self-perceived employability of these graduates was determined by graduates’ English language skills, soft skills, adaptability skills, the quality of the institution’s IT programme and job seeking efforts. Results also indicated that work experience, professional competencies and employability made the job search duration shorter, but job seeking efforts made job search duration longer.

The authors’ claim to have filled a gap in the employability research, by providing a quantitative explanation about relationships between employability, job search duration and differing key predictors.

Returning to Feldmann’s focus on internships, Ann Pegg and Martha Caddell explore how workplace internships have become a key site in which policy and funding mechanisms seek to address concerns about graduate employability and graduate skills in relation to Scottish national economic plans and perceived business needs. Their paper “Workplaces and policy spaces: insights from Third Sector Internships Scotland” draws from five years of data generated from the Third Sector Internships Scotland programme and explores two specific areas; the conceptual space where discussion and policy making occur and the physical places of education and the workplace where learning occurs. Shifts in policy and funding are also traced and considered, in relation to how these shifts respond to internship experiences.

The approach within Scotland offers a unique opportunity to explore ways in which internships have become increasingly significant as a pedagogic device, operating between educational institutions and the workplace.

“Learning Jam: an evaluation of the use of arts based initiatives to generate polyphonic understanding in Work-Based Learning” (Anne Pässilä, Allan Owens and Maiju Pulkki) continues the focus on practice based learning by showcasing Learning Jam, where managers and artists in Finland explore operating as partners, developing new ways of working to realise organisational change and innovation. A “kaleidoscopic pedagogy” is used to help arts-based initiatives collectively and subjectively reconsider practice. Rancière’s critical theory frames the exploration with research questions including:

RQ1. What are the ingredients of this creative, transformative learning space?

RQ2. What ways can the polyphonic understandings that emerge in its impact on work-based learning?

The study’s findings centre on alternative ways of learning, with a key research implication being that teaching in this context demands reflexive and dialogical capabilities for those who organise and facilitates the spaces for learning and transformation.

Antonina Bauman’s paper, “Students’ perceptions of the use of technology in cross-cultural communication”, builds on the themes of innovative learning within workplaces as well as introducing technology’s place in this. In a small study of business students she uses structured interviews to explore their perceptions of the use of technology in cross-cultural communication. The students are found to be quick to implement technology, for example using video conferencing in preference to e-mail. The study’s findings suggest changes to the curriculum such as embedding work-based learning into academic programmes.

The final paper in this issue, “Graduates” perceptions of competencies and preparation for labour market transition: The effect of gender and work experience during higher education’ (Sílvia Monteiro, Leandro Almeida and Adela Aracil) explores the influence of work experience and gender on graduates’ perception of competencies, preparation and expectations of success in labour market transition. The research questions are:

RQ1. How do graduates evaluate the competencies acquired during their masters’ degree?

RQ2. How do graduates evaluate their preparation for transition to the labour market and their expectations of success?

These were administered to 411 students in their final masters’ degree year via a questionnaire and the results are interrogated here, they suggest, amongst other things, that it is important for higher education institutions to consider self-beliefs related to students’ diversity, in order to maximise the development and effective use of competencies and individual resources in work contexts, for all students.

I hope you enjoy this issue and agree that the international work here is original, interesting and useful. You can look forward to two exciting special issues coming next in our publication timetable, “Higher and degree apprenticeships: creating the future workforce” and “Work-based learning as a transdisciplinary field of study”.

Going forward please do feel free to approach me with your own ideas for a special issue of Higher Education Skills and Work-based Learning, this can also offer you the opportunity to act as a Guest Editor.

Ruth Helyer