Looking back at our first year

David Coyne, Director of the Centre for Work-based Learning, commented on the Centre’s first year of operation, saying:  


The Centre was a direct result of the work being undertaken by SDS to look at the future of the Scottish economy, and to identify ways in which prosperity and opportunity could be fostered through new ways of giving skills to our workforce. We were actively looking at the Scottish Apprenticeship model, comparing it with the best in Europe, to find ways of us getting the high levels of youth employment seen in Germany, the innovation of Finland and the high standards of technical education seen in Switzerland. It became clear to us that it was not just the existence of skills programmes which was driving those economies, but holistic, system wide characteristics, different in each country, but similar in effect.

There was in each case an interaction between three forces, a triple helix, to use the current term, in which employers, educators and wider society had a mutual understanding and clear expectation of each other.  Employers felt a duty to create the workforce of the future, partly because it was expected of them but more so because it made them competitive and sustainable. Educators took the needs of tomorrow’s economy as their Pole Star in developing skills programmes, and wider society (learners and their families) engaged early and enthusiastically in a system which gave them real value in opportunity and reward.


David Coyne presenting the Centre for Work-based Learning at Symposium 2017. Watch the highlights video here.

Contrast that with the language of consumer interest, skills gaps and institutional interests which runs through much of the discourse in that space in the UK.

SDS was developing two new Apprenticeship offerings, the Foundation Apprenticeship, for those at School to engage in industry led and industry relevant learning of an equal value to more traditional classroom based activity, and Graduate Apprenticeships, in which people can earn and learn up to Degree level in a combination of the workplace and the Higher Education institute. Those are both now in the second and third year of life, and have caught the imagination of employers, educators and learners, there is genuine evidence of the triple helix forming in Scotland’s skills and learning arena.

It was then, and remains now, our belief that in addition to developing these new opportunities, it would be necessary to nurture these positive developments by proactively enhancing the evidence, practice and awareness of Work-based Learning.  And so the Centre was born. A partnership with three of our HEI’s, Robert Gordon University, Heriot Watt University and the University of Strathclyde, joined at arm’s length by our friends in DHBW in Stuttgart, from whom we have learned a lot.

The Centre has founded a programme of work which has already delivered international calibre events; technical workshops; forward looking discussion papers and more. Our social media feed is busy with dissemination and debate.

As we look into year two, we are planning more and more far reaching activity, continuous professional development for Work-based Learning Practitioners, an innovation platform for co-creating ideas and further research into how the Human Skills, which differentiate us from the Artificial Intelligence which will increasingly become our workmate, can be nurtured, imparted and refreshed through what will be long and complex working lives.

The Centre is a collective, of minds and activities, and will be a space for the deep thinking, the provocative observation and the creative ideas which will help Scotland become the high performing inclusive economy we aspire to.

The 21st Century will be a time of global challenges, but there are opportunities for small modern democracies like Scotland, so let’s embrace the change and make it change for the better.


Watch our Symposium 2017 highlights video.

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