Work Based Learning – ‘Fishing for themselves’

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Much is being done now within Higher Education to help students be that bit better prepared for the world of work – which is a good thing. But at the moment too much is based on both telling them the skills that employers need – i.e. spoon feeding them what they need to know and encouraging them to gte more work experience.

Whereas to truly prepare them to succeed long term in the world of work they need to be armed with the ability to not just know what skills they need but assess which ones they have and to what level – i.e. learn to feed themselves.

Learning from their variety of work experiences is good example. However all too often it is ‘assumed’ that the students will learn fully for themselves the skills they have gleaned from their work experience. HE provide them with opportunities to get ‘work experience’ through placements and internships, thinking, or worst still assuming, that through that experience they will develop the skills they need for work. 

Students through no fault of their own don’t know what they don’t know – they need help and support to squeeze all the value possible from their different work experiences.

Higher Education is well placed to help stduents ‘reflect’ on their work experience and draw out all the skills they have got from their work experience. One such tool I have recently become involved in is ‘digital stories’ whereby the student concludes their reflection by actually contructing a story digitally, on their work experience and, all importantly, the skills they learned from it. This then means that when applying for jobs they are not just aware of all the relevant skills they have (and to what extent) but know how to demonstrate and verbalise them, which to date they have been pretty poor at.

Reflection then is a key skill and let’s hope to see more of that work being done in HE by academics and tutors with their students. Or put another way “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.”

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