Work-Based Learning in Vocational Education and Training: Varied Communities, Fields and Learning Pathways

Heta Rintala

Research output: Book/ReportDoctoral thesisCollection of Articles


There is currently a strong focus on work-based learning (WBL) in vocational education. This doctoral dissertation investigates work-based learning, particularly apprenticeship training in Finland, and provides knowledge and understanding of workplace learning (WPL) in vocational education and training (VET). The dissertation includes four publications in total, of which publications I and II are literature reviews, and publications III and IV are studies based on empirical interview data. Interviews (N = 73) were collected in 2015 and 2017. The first dataset (n = 40) consisted of interviews with apprentices and members of their work communities in 10 workplaces. The second dataset (n = 33) covered interviews with both apprentices and students in school-based VET who were participating in onthejob learning periods. The findings of the studies were based on a qualitative synthesis of previous research and qualitative and thematic analysis of interview data. School-based VET has been the dominant model of education in the Finnish VET system. This research highlights that apprenticeship, as an institution, has been supported by a clear and legal framework, but the goals and the target group have not always been clear. According to the experiences of the participants, apprenticeship training was a demanding work-based pathway; moreover, its educational meaning was not always recognised by the actors, including apprentices, trainers or employers. Employers also expected apprentices to quickly become productive workers. However, full participation was not always possible due to productive, financial or safety reasons. The empirical studies investigated more closely three fields of VET – social and health care, business and administration and technology – and two learning pathways in VET – learners as apprentices in work and learners in school-based VET. Learners revealed differing experiences in both the field of work and in the learning pathways. For example, in the social and health care field, learners more quickly progressed to more independent and responsible tasks than they did in the technology field. As regards the learning pathways, while their roles could be more autonomous, for apprentices, the transition to responsible tasks could come too quickly. In contrast, students in school-based VET gradually moved to more demanding tasks and environments and were supported by the school and the work community. However, learners were in some cases ‘relegated’ to tasks more assistive in nature as a result of being positioned lower in the hierarchy. Despite the differences among the fields and between the learning pathways, it is suggested that learning environments provided by the various work communities can be developed by promoting learners’ opportunities to participate, receive guidance and feel a sense of belonging. The summary of the four publications, led to the conclusion that WBL in VET is related to multiple aspects at the micro, meso and macro levels. Learners and their characteristics and behaviours are central to WBL. Overall, to fully benefit from learning opportunities at work mean having a self-directed approach. Also, there is a need to consider the context, including various communities and organisations that participate in VET and the role of education within learning at work. More widely, developments related to the VET system and society cannot be overlooked.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherTampere University
ISBN (Electronic)978-952-03-1404-0
ISBN (Print)978-952-03-1403-3
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (articles)

Publication series

NameTampere University Dissertations - Tampereen yliopiston väitöskirjat
ISSN (Print)2489-9860
ISSN (Electronic)2490-0028


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