Simon Roodhouse (2010: 26) concludes that “mechanisms to connect business needs with higher education provision are generally disorganised and confusing”. He starts the section of saying that “in higher education, workforce development is often referred to as work-based learning and is increasingly recognised as a field of study” (p. 24). He cites Costley’s (2001) observation that such work-based learning by higher education institutions incorporates “the learning people do, for, in and through work” (emphasis added) and quotes examples of longevity:
- Sandwich courses (academic study interspaced with work experience) and placements (elsewhere called (cooperative and work-integrated education) for longer than a century.
- Structured continuing professional development courses which recognise knowledge gained through work experience.
- Formalised accreditation of prior and experiential learning (APEL) processes.
- Familiarity of learning contracts as instruments in education.
Costley (2001, in Roodhouse 2010: 25) identify synonyms including “work based, work related, placement activities, elective modules, independent study, APEL, reach out, CPD, work based learning”. She further indicates that in most cases work based learning forms part of existing programmes at universities; and that learning outcomes and assessment criteria are embedded in the subject knowledge areas derived from scholarly activities and research.
The lack of sustained engagement of higher education in workforce development is difficult to conceptualise, observes Roodhouse (2010: 25) and highlights his observation with the following University Vocational Awards Council (2002):
We somehow seem to be incapable of learning from experience. Succeeding generations of employers are still marooned in tedious development project steering committees whose proceedings take place in academic jargon. Frustrated academics are still struggling to secure placements and projects with the very companies who are lambasting the quality of their graduates’ work readiness.
Roodhouse (2010: 25) speculates that it could also be “intellectual scepticism amongst the academic community, that employability which is associated with work-based learning is nothing more than a continuous conflict between individuals, market demands and fluctuations”.