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The practice of apprenticeships as work-integrated learning

Smith, Sally; Taylor-Smith, Ella; Fabian, Khristin; Klotz, David


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Prof Sally Smith
Head of Graduate Apprenticeships and Skills Development and Professor


Karsten E. Zegwaard

T. Judene Pretti


The term ‘apprentice’ is used to describe an employee who is learning in order to fulfill a future job role, with this learning largely encompassing on-the-job training and learning by doing (Fuller & Unwin, 1998). Conventionally, apprenticeships were associated with learning a trade. However, many employers now recognize the value of a degree-level apprenticeship as a way of meeting the demands for a highly skilled workforce. As such, apprenticeships are a feature of higher education provision in an increasing number of countries, whereby the traditional on-the-job model is adapted to include a degree awarded by a university, which incorporates and recognizes both on-the-job training and academic study. As an example of work-integrated learning (WIL), the apprenticeship represents a model that, while drawing from the principles of WIL, establishes the workplace as a significant learning context. This can be considered as a move from integrating work into traditional learning to integrating traditional learning into work. In other words, where many examples of WIL are focused on pushing learners off campus and into workplaces, the apprenticeship pulls learners onto the campus from their workplaces. The apprentice is employed by an organization that enrolls them on a degree apprenticeship. This is not simply a part time degree; rather, the degree is structured to recognize a significant element of on-the-job learning through academic credit. Typically, 80% of time is spent in the workplace and 20% on campus; and WIL can make up as much as 50% of course credits. As such, the length of time taken to achieve the degree is generally the same as for on-campus delivery. This chapter presents a brief history of apprenticeships in higher education then explains how they work in practice. Themed empirical apprentice interview data from Scotland is presented that captures motivations to select an apprenticeship, how work and study are reconciled, how learning is integrated in the workplace, and how peer support is identified by apprentices. Two case studies showing implementations in the UK and Germany are introduced, before future directions and challenges are presented.

Acceptance Date Dec 22, 2020
Online Publication Date Jun 6, 2023
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date Apr 24, 2023
Publisher Routledge
Pages 207-217
Series Title Routledge International Handbooks of Education
Edition 3rd Edition
Book Title The Routledge International Handbook of Work-Integrated Learning
Chapter Number 13
ISBN 9780367741761, 9781032497181
Publisher URL