6.2 Guidelines for Using Work-based Learning as Part of an Integrated Guidance Approach
How do you think WBL experiences are useful in an integrated guidance approach?
This is the first question you, as a mentor, should ask yourself before proposing this kind of activity in an integrated guidance model, especially when addressed to highly disadvantaged young adults who need to re-enter the world of work or the VET system. Of course, you need to keep in mind that with the Beyond NEET(D)s target group you cannot make use of all the types of existing WBL activities as some of them are in closer relation with formal education activities such as the traineeship. In addition, there are some important factors that you should take into consideration before offering to the Beyond NEET(D)s target group to carry out a WBL activity.
At first, we can mention the personal or familial situation of the mentee. It can play a significant part in facilitating or limiting access to WBL opportunities. When planning WBL experiences, you must take into account any other commitments that mentees may have included those related to childcare, health, welfare support or family support. In some cases, often among those that left education at an early age, there might be one or more psychological barriers to learning (fear of failure, anxiety about the use of new tools, fear to be judged, etc.). In all such cases, it is important to put the mentee at ease, explaining that you will provide support and help, together with the in-company tutor. Lastly, it is not always easy to find companies willing to provide learning opportunities such as hosting mentees in WBL experiences. In this case, it is important to confirm the benefits for companies from facilitating or delivering WBL such as access to new potential employees, reducing skills gaps, etc. (for further issues about this topic please have a look at subchapter 6.3).
How can you deliver WBL in an integrated guidance approach?
In order to help your mentee benefit from this experience, we provide you with some guidelines you should keep in mind for the successful delivery of work-based learning in an integrated guidance model. Effective planning is a must for a successful WBL and these guidelines can help you!
- Identify the stakeholders needed to help with the implementation of the WBL experience (representatives of employers and/or employer associations). You can build a database of potential employers willing to collaborate with you in work-based learning experiences.
- Collect information on your mentee career interests.
- Based on mentee’s interests, select the right company for the job shadow, internship, apprenticeship experience or any other type of WBL. Employers’ mapping and recruitment can take time, so an early start is strongly advisable (see subchapter 6.3).
- Prepare the host company and your mentee for the WBL.
- Throughout the WBL, provide your mentee with opportunities to reflect upon the WBL experience and support / motivate him / her (for further info about how to motivate your mentees please read subchapter 6.4).
- At the end of the WBL, get evaluations both from your mentee and the host company. For this, you can use a standard evaluation form that you can draw in advance.
To know and to motivate your young mentee e. g. what qualifications they have already got and what they are capable of, to create a relationship with him / her and to better support him / her, it is vital to use suitable tools. This will be useful in order to find, right afterwards, the most adequate work-based learning placement, especially if he / she comes from a highly disadvantaged background as our target group.
You also need to develop an understanding of the mentee’s disability and how this may affect them in the workplace (in the case of mentees with a disability). A tool you can use for this purpose is the One-Page Profile. A One-Page Profile records all the important information about a person on a single sheet of paper under three headings: what people appreciate about me, what’s important to me and how best to support me. This tool helps mentors to build better relationships by understanding what is important for the person in their life and the way in which they are supported to live it. Furthermore, being regularly updated, it can be used by different services and staff (it always mirrors the person changing circumstances and aspirations). We advise you to implement the activity related to this subchapter in the Toolkit, to start using the One-Page Profile with your mentees. As long as you have understood the strengths and interests of your mentee and you have created a good relationship with him / her, you can match your client with a company for the WBL opportunity.
It is now time to develop the Individual Learning Plan (also called Personal Learning Plan) which allows the setting of learning objectives for WBL. Personal Learning Plans are also used to track the progress of mentees during and after WBL. After a defined period of time, in fact, mentor and mentee meet and revise the learning plan. This progress can also be recorded in the WBL diary (see subchapter 6.4).
When you design a Personal Learning Plan for your mentee, you have to make sure that the learning plan is individualised and that the learning objectives are both realistic and challenging for your mentee. Furthermore, you have to make sure that the mentee is clear about what is required of them before they start the WBL experience and who to ask for help in the work placement if they are having difficulty.
To support your mentee in the definition of their learning objectives for the WBL experience, you can make use of the SMART goals. According to this method, each goal is reachable if it is:
- Specific (simple, significant)
- Measurable (meaningful, motivating)
- Achievable (attainable)
- Relevant (reasonable, realistic and results-based)
- Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited).
If you want to know more about the SMART goals method, you can look for information on the Internet. We are sure you can find a lot of information on how to use this technique with your mentees.
Do not forget to produce a formal Learning Agreement between your centre, the mentee and the company. In this agreement it is important that you point out the duties and responsibilities of each actor involved in the WBL process. You will enclose to the Agreement the Personal Learning Plan of your mentee. Here below we give you some insights on what you can include in the agreement for each actor involved in the WBL:
- Complies with the rules of the work-based learning placement;
- Observes the same regulations that apply to other employees.
- Assists in implementing an appropriate work-based experience based on the mentee’s objectives / integrated guidance pathway;
- Works with the in-company tutor / supervisor in developing a training plan for the mentee.
- Visits the work-based learning location to verify that mentee’s duties correlate with job description. Mentor also observes working conditions, helps in developing progressive skill-building activities, observes and evaluates mentee progresses and solves questions, issues or concerns.
Employer / in-company tutor:
- Provides supervision and instruction in each of the applicable tasks listed on the Training Plan to help the young mentee in acquiring those competencies;
- Assesses and documents mentee’s progress;
- Employs a non-discrimination policy with regard to race, colour, handicap, sex, religion, national origin or age (this is applicable especially for employers);
- Completes the work-based experience Evaluation and send it to you / your centre.
Remember to provide your mentees with some information concerning health and safety at the workplace before your mentee starts the work-based learning activity.
Lastly, before (but also during) the WBL opportunity you should always be ready on how to face barriers. It is important to identify practical barriers before starting a placement and how to deal with them. This is extremely important in consideration of the target group of youngsters you are working with. Thus, you must think about how to deal with difficult situations arising in the course of WBL e. g. how to deal with inappropriate behaviour, or physical barriers e. g. technical instruments.
We are confident that you now have all the required information in order to implement an effective and successful WBL for your mentees! So, let’s move to the next step!
Reflective questions for the reader:
- How do you think WBL experiences are useful in an integrated guidance approach?
- Think to one of your mentees. Which undefined progress factors can you use in order to measure the impact of the WBL experience on him/her?
- In this subchapter we gave you some insights about the One-Page Profile. Which tools do you use in your work in order to create a relationship and get to know your mentee better before implementing a WBL activity?
- Think of one of your mentees, which barriers do you envisage in his / her WBL? How would you overcome them?
 You can have a look, for example, at the following links https://www.mindtools.com/page6.html and https://www.smartsheet.com/blog/essential-guide-writing-smart-goals consulted on the 10th of December 2021
 The information has been adapted from https://cdn.education.ne.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/16-Training-Agreement.pdf consulted on the 3rd of November 2021