ENHANCING STUDENTS’ EMPLOYABILITY SKILLS THROUGH INTERNATIONAL PROJECT IWBLABS
Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies (LATVIA)
About this paper:
Conference name: 13th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 11-13 March, 2019
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:The number of young unemployed people is growing due to fact that they lack skills which employers seek. The development of their employability skills can be fostered through work-based learning (WBL). This pedagogical approach offers added value to learning opportunities which can be particularly appropriated for employment and careers. To develop new job-oriented skills and connect education with work, an international project under the title Internationalization of Work Based Learning in Agribusiness Sector (IWBLabs) was implemented in Latvia, Italy, Spain and Slovakia. In this project, Latvia was represented by Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies (LLU).
The article looks into strategies used by the LLU project team to involve the target groups: 90 university students and 20 secondary school pupils, 7 VET institutions and 20 companies. They were recruited through informative mailings, discussions, diverse dissemination activities, individual meetings and consultations. Activities with learners, VET trainers and company representatives for producing intellectual outputs (IOs) are described. The article focuses on testing the contents and usability of the Repository of E-learning video lessons and video interviews (IO1), Guidelines for the Organisation of International Placements (IO2), and the Virtual Platform (IO3) jointly produced by the project partners. As the theoretical framework for creation of these intellectual outputs the WBL approach has been used.
The analysis of the opinions given by three focus groups on the quality of the IOs is given. The focus groups included 8 students, 8 VET trainers and 6 company managers. The results of their evaluation questionnaires show that the IOs1 have been evaluated very highly- the average score is 8.8. All focus groups hold the opinion that the Guidelines are highly usable, and the quality of the available contents is very high. A “9.0” was given for both of those criteria. The Platform for Virtual Internships also got high evaluation results- the average score was 8.9.The usability of the Platform and clarity of the contents available were given”8.8” each. The average score for the quality of the layout was “8.9”, and for applicability- a”9.0”. The relevance and quality of the contents of the IOs, the organisation of their structure, the design and easiness of navigation encourage and support independent studies, and they help students achieve work-related outcomes and prepare for carrying out virtual international internships.The impact of the project on the target groups is presented. Students can connect education and work, have new learning opportunities, become familiar with the international work environment, acquire international experience on a business level, and develop new job-oriented skills; companies can identify talented interns, who can become employees in the future, owing to the data base in the virtual platform, companies can form networks with other companies and VET providers; and organizing internships through the virtual platform is cost efficient, saving time, human resources and financial resources.
The conclusion emphasizes that work-based learning should be integrated in the curriculum to enable learners to achieve specific work-related learning outcomes while attending school/ studying at university. These outcomes should have parity with academic learning outcomes.
Keywords: Students’ employability skills, work-based learning approach, collaboration with companies, joint international project, project intellectual outcomes.