NextSteps@TechVET: Elevating Work-Based Learning in Vocational Education and Training (VET)
The NextSteps@TechVET project, supported by the Erasmus+ program, has successfully concluded after three exciting years of collaboration between four partner countries: Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and the Netherlands. This project aimed to enhance the quality and effectiveness of work-based learning (WBL) in VET in technology fields by improving the guidance skills of VET teachers, students, and Workplace Trainers.
The NextSteps@TechVET project developed a new profession “Learning Ambassador” as part of competence-based vocational training. The project defined the job description and competence requirements of the Learning Ambassador. Learning Ambassadors operate at the interface between the educational institution and the company, they know the needs of companies in their professional field and the learning opportunities at workplaces. They are also career guidance professionals. The project developed and piloted a model for developing, identifying, and recognizing the competence of Learning Ambassadors. The project also developed concrete tools to improve the pedagogical skills of Workplace Trainers. Through the development of the pedagogical skills of Workplace Trainers, the project wanted to promote the development of workplaces as high-quality, physically, mentally, and socially safe learning environments for students and for company´s staff members as well.
In addition a comprehensive report was generated to explore the connection between educational institutions and workplaces, shedding light on the guidance capabilities in each partner country. This report was a product of surveys and interviews with VET students, teachers, and professionals from the world of work.
Additionally, a wide array of educational materials was crafted to enhance the guidance skills of VET teachers and Workplace Trainers. These resources, available in five languages, encompassed engaging content such as videos, quizzes, exercises, and real-life case studies. They were designed to be compatible with both online and blended learning environments.
The project also introduced an assessment test aimed at evaluating the career guidance skills of Learning Ambassadors. This test was based on the competencies defined by project partners. Furthermore, a Best Practices Guide for WBL support was developed. This guide catered to learning ambassadors, students, and Workplace Trainers.
The project developed a digital Open Badge family to identify and acknowledge the skills of Learning Ambassadors and Workplace trainers. Badges have been piloted in the Open Badge Factory environment.
A particularly fascinating aspect of this project for VET teachers is the evolving role they now play. The duties of more and more professional teachers no longer confined to the traditional role of educators, but they resemble the work of a Learning Ambassador in many respects. VET teachers have evolved into learning ambassadors who bridge the gap between educational institutions and the world of work. The project trained the very first international group of Learning Ambassadors. They have gained a deeper understanding of the skill needs of regional companies, have become experts in recognizing workplace learning opportunities, and have been instrumental in providing invaluable career guidance. Moreover, they now contribute to the training of Workplace Trainers and play a pivotal role in predicting future skill requirements in collaboration with businesses. They have become champions of students’ self-directed learning and individual competence development. Learning Ambassadors also provide pedagogical support, guiding students and assessing their skills in the workplace. Importantly, they contribute to collaboration with Workplace Trainers in making the workplace a safe and effective learning environment, both physically, mentally, and socially.
The project has brought numerous benefits to VET students, teachers, and partners in the world of work. It has deepened their understanding of the advantages and challenges associated with WBL in VET, improved their communication, collaboration, and problem-solving skills, and equipped them with valuable tools and resources to support WBL activities. Furthermore, the project has fostered a network of Learning Ambassadors and Workplace Trainers who are now ready to share their experiences and best practices. Most notably, it has provided an opportunity for all involved to demonstrate their competencies through digital Open Badges.
Looking ahead, the project has exciting plans and recommendations to further promote WBL in VET. These plans include the dissemination of project results and outputs to a wider audience of VET stakeholders, encouraging further collaboration among project partners to explore fresh opportunities for development and innovation in WBL in VET, and fostering Micro Credentials as a part of VET providers service culture.
In conclusion, the NextSteps@TechVET project expresses gratitude to all the participants, partners, and supporters who played a vital role in its success. For more information about the project, please visit the project website www.hamk.fi/techvet or follow its social media accounts. Your journey as a VET teacher will undoubtedly become more exciting!
NextSteps@TechVET project aimed to promote WBL in all its forms, by involving companies and VET providers and targets VET institutions, especially VET teachers and their connections in the world of work such as workplace instructors, managers and HR.
The project responded to the EU priorities for Vocational Education Training. It promoted WBL and teachers’ and trainers’ professional development through the recognition of the current state and development needs regarding cooperation between VET institutions and working life, especially focusing on guidance (incl. career guidance and workplace guidance in physical and digital environments); development of pedagogically considered educational materials to support guidance skills and cooperation between education and work; promotion of best practices for WBL from the perspectives of teachers, students and working life and the improvement, recognition and accreditation of guidance skills through the development of digital open badge-driven learning process. The project ran for 36 months starting on 1.9.2020 and finished on 31.8.2023.
HAMK coordinated the project. Project partners were Koulutuskuntayhtymä Tavastia Finland; Kouvolan ammattiopisto Finland; Vidzemes Tehnoloģiju un dizaina tehnikums Latvia; Tallinna Lasnamäe Mehaanikakool Estonia and Stichting voor Christelijk beroepsonderwijs en volwassen educatie Friesland/Flevoland Netherlands
NextSteps@TechVET project was funded with support from the European Commission, under ERASMUS+, with the reference number 2020-1-FI01-KA202-066596.