The practice of integrating or embedding language, literacy and numeracy into continuous vocational education and training or contextualising basic skills work in a vocational area has recently been given a renewed focus in the UK, following research and development by the Institute of Education, University of London, as part of the Skills for Life strategy. This has had a significant impact on UK policy and strategy in this area. Other European countries have worked at national level with the contextualisation of basic skills training in the work place. However, awareness of the possible benefits of embedding, integrating or contextualising basic skills in vocational education and training and understanding of good practice in this area across Europe is varied. The motivation behind establishing this partnership is to understand more about this in different European contexts and to move from this increased understanding to raise awareness, and highlight good practice through partnership activities.
Many learners are motivated to acquire a set of vocational skills to access employment, but are much less motivated to improve the basic skills that underpin the acquisition of these skills. They are often reluctant to return to studying language or maths, which they may well associate with negative memories from school. Where learners take discrete basic skills courses, they often find it difficult to transfer the skills they have acquired from the classroom to the workplace.
Learners need to develop the basic skills required for the workplace and the job, for their vocational study and assessment, and also for additional basic skills assessments as many vocational qualifications require learners to take and pass examinations in basic skills. Many practitioners believe that the most effective way of providing learners with effective basic skills learning opportunities is to embed or integrate the basic skills teaching and learning within vocational study.
By embedding or integrating basic skills within VET it is possible to create courses that are much more attractive to learners as well as being more effective in equipping them with the basic skills they require for the workplace. Learners are motivated to carry out basic skills tasks in a realistic, job-related context. Transfer is not an issue with embedded courses as the skills are presented and practised within the vocational context. This way basic skills gain from the positive association with the professional identity to which learners on vocational courses aspire. What’s more, while on discrete courses there is a focus on learners’ deficiencies in basic skills, on embedded courses learners are also able to draw on their vocational competences, increasing self-esteem and confidence in applying the learned skills.
The overall aim of this partnership is to explore issues around basic skills in VET. Within this aim, there are four objectives:
1. to increase awareness of the importance of basic skills in VET
2. to identify examples of good practice
3. to identify evidence on the effectiveness of different models of basic skills learning in VET
4. to recommend areas for further research.