The aim of the proposed studentship project is to develop new knowledge and practical methods for evaluating the impact of work-based learning (WBL) on industry performance. It addresses a need for outcome-based measures to assess long-term benefits of WBL.
The research will survey the extent of current provision and impact of WBL in Scottish industry and analyse the attributes of WBL that contribute to improved productivity and performance. A novel approach to measuring the impact of WBL on firm performance will be explored. Rather than take a purely skills perspective (i.e. mapping skills and outputs), the focus will be on measuring maturity of ‘expansive’ work-based learning environments (WBLE) that include educational providers and sectoral bodies and that demonstrate ‘Industry 4.0’ characteristics in their use of real-time data and context-sensitive information to create an optimal learning experience which leads to increased productivity.
The research will adopt a mixed methods approach to the empirical work. A nation-wide survey will be conducted to gather quantitative data on the current provision and perceived impact of WBL in industry. A sample of 3-5 firms, representing different sizes and sectors, will be selected from the survey participants who have indicated willingness to take part in further in-depth research. A qualitative study of the sample of firms will be undertaken using multi-methods including direct observation, interviews and focus groups.
The main research questions to be addressed in a study of Scottish enterprises are:
- What is the extent of current provision and impact of WBL?
- What are the critical success and limiting factors indicative of different levels of WBL maturity and performance success?
- How can the WBL environment be measured/evaluated/assessed as an indicator of ‘maturity’, and what is the potential value (and burden) of this for educational providers, employers, learners and communities?
The studentship project will benefit from the combined research expertise and experience of the supervisory team and the research environment in the Centre for Social Informatics at Edinburgh Napier University. The proposed project is achievable in collaboration with Skills Development Scotland and with the supervisory team’s direct connections with industry and employers.
The outcomes of the studentship will underpin policy development in work-based learning and support the work of SDS by identifying and providing evidence of good practice; and developing new approaches in work-based learning with a particular focus on work-based learning environments.