How a Work-Based Learning Degree Can Make You a More Valuable Employee

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Work-based learning at higher education level has long been a feature of UK higher education. For example, the National Council for Technological Awards in the 1950s advocated that undergraduate engineering and technology programmes should incorporate planned periods of industrial placement. Since then, work-based learning has gone from strength to strength. There have been various studies since the late 1980s looking at the impact of work-based learning on students, revealing just how beneficial this learning method can be.

Work-related learning can help make students ready for, more effective in, and more valued in the workplace once graduated. It’s a practical way to earn while you learn that benefits employers as much as it benefits employees. There are now more work-based learning providers than ever, allowing candidates a better choice of course options – from one-year ‘sandwich’ courses and flexible short ‘block’ placements interspersed throughout the year, to online distance learning. Work-based students also benefit as it means that they can study while continuing with their work responsibilities, and for students in remote areas, the avoidance of having to spend considerable periods of time away from home.

The benefits of work-based learning programmes are wide-ranging. They allow you to:

  • Achieve internationally recognised university qualifications – these can improve student job prospects, earnings, and access to overseas job opportunities
  • Earn formal recognition for the level at which you are working – work-related learning programmes allow students to reflect on the skills they already possess and help them to develop these for the future
  • Improve your career development opportunities – with an enhanced range of valuable skills under their belts, a wider range of career opportunities opens up to work-based learning graduates
  • Enjoy the challenge of learning new skills – personal development and exciting new challenges can be hugely motivational, helping you to see your future with a fresh perspective
  • Gain greater work fulfillment – learning through work will help students perform better in every sector, and this enhanced personal performance in the classroom can help professional gain a greater sense of fulfillment in the workplace
  • Cut the cost of study – with an increasing number of students graduating with significant debt, work-based learning degrees provide a more cost-effective way for students to pursue study that is wholly relevant to their career goals
  • Harness the power of networking – work-related learning programmes also allow students to benefit from enhanced networking opportunities. Working alongside professional from a range of sectors can lead to new business relationships being forged that can last a lifetime.

Studies prove it

Recent studies of the relationship between work-based learning and subsequent graduate employment success, such as Bowes and Harvey’s The impact of sandwich education on the activities of graduates six months post-graduation (1999) and Mason et al’s How much does higher education enhance the employability of graduates? (2003), found that work-based learning graduates are advantaged in the labour market, especially in the early part of their careers.

In addition, employers were found to have highly positive views about graduates who have undertaken periods of work experience during their undergraduate programme. Work-based learning graduates are perceived as having acquired many of the skills essential for success at work including communication and interpersonal skills, in addition to acquiring attributes such as team-working and an awareness of workplace culture.

Benefits for employers

Our economy needs more people in the workforce with higher level skills – Gordon Brown, 2007

In the wake of the global economic crisis, UK employers across the board are seeking highly skilled employees. Graduates of work-based learning programmes are therefore highly valued by employers in a wide range of job sectors. Work-related learning degrees not only benefit the student, but the employer too. Work-based teaching methods mean that company employees’ performance and knowledge is improved without the company having to lose key management.

Working and learning have often been seen as two distinct and separate entities, with the learning to be completed before the working can start. In practice, we never stop learning and we learn a vast amount in the workplace. Increasingly, employers are recognising the value of skills acquired at work. For work-based learning graduates, this is great news in terms of earning power and career opportunities for the future.

The University of Lincoln Work-Based Learning top-up degrees will help you achieve your career goals and obtain a qualification with a global focus. Find out more about the Lincoln WBDL programmes.

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