Virtual Issue to celebrate 10 years of HESWBL

Higher Education, Skills and Work-based Learning

HESWBL 10 Years On…

Mandy Crawford-Lee and Professor Tony Wall

For over twenty years, the University Vocational Awards Council (UVAC) has championed the cause of higher level vocational and work-based learning including higher and degree apprenticeships through webinars and events, our national conference, lobbying and advocacy and a range of research reports, cases studies and good practice guides. For over 50 years Emerald Publishing has championed fresh thinking and practical implication through publications such as Higher Education, Skills and Work-based Learning. Through the publication of such research, our goal is to help those in academia and people in practice work together to make a positive change in the real world. This partnership between UVAC and Emerald is one of the reasons Higher Education, Skills and Work-based Learning continues to contribute to society today, 10 years on…

 With the launch of (HESWBL) in 2011 the journal brought a much-needed focus on the research, policies and practice in higher level work-integrated learning and an opportunity to showcase excellence and innovation in practice developed by UVAC members and others as well as challenging existing perceptions of what higher education (HE) is and for. With the introduction of HESWBL as the independent journal combining academic and practitioner-focused papers, we established for the first time a scholarly focus on the interface between HE and learning in the workplace that recognised how developing work-based higher education programmes is fundamental for achieving social mobility, supporting levelling-up, widening access to occupations by under-represented groups and improving performance in productivity.

A key theme throughout the journal is the importance of language and higher education policies. In HESWBL’s Volume 1 Issue 1 UVAC reminds us that too often HE policies have prioritised participation of young people and focused on increasing the number of graduates entering the labour market as opposed to the development of the knowledge and skills of the existing workforce. That too often HE is associated with young people rather than young people and adults; with new entry to the jobs market rather than the ongoing development of workforce skills and promotion of lifelong learning; with ‘going to university’ full-time instead of learning at work; where ‘studying’ has been equated with ‘learning’ rather than learning through practice, reflection and observation in a range of environments – the workplace being one of the most important sites. Articles in HESWBL have shown us that this myopia might manifest differently around the globe, reflecting historical and cultural diversity, but highlights the role of HESWBL in transitioning towards ‘decent work’ for all.

These issues remain ‘live’ in 2021 where the variety of misconceptions and ideologies that created the centuries long held view of the academic and vocational divide still persist in the language used. UVAC would argue that the talk of academic and vocational pathways ignores the inconvenient fact that individuals need a combination of academic and practical skills in order to succeed in life and work. Individuals learn in different ways, but there are not ‘academic’ and ‘vocational’ learners or indeed ’academic’ or ‘vocational’ programmes. Occupations that some would see as vocational programmes have lobbied for decades to be recognised as academic. Nursing is a good example, which requires a combination of academic and practical skills and commitment to the role (or vocation). Old thinking needs to be left in the past and HESWBL contributes enormously to this debate.

New themes have also emerged and started to be reflected increasingly in the journal’s papers. The emphasis placed on traditional university delivery and too little on distance, blended and work-based learning has been challenged, more so during the Covid 19 pandemic. Researcher and practitioners are sharing their experiences of delivering during the health crisis, with a greater and more effective use (and growth) of online and distance learning, part-time and work-based programmes. Lockdown and the increased use of new virtual platforms is accelerating approaches to deliver in a new way and develop world-class approaches to work-based, work-integrated and blended learning. Above all higher education providers of all types should be supported to deliver and assess on the delivery of programmes that address the skill needs of the economy, in ways that are of most benefit to individuals and employers. 

This special, virtual special issue celebrates a decade of innovations, evaluations, and research that have made HESWBL the journal it is today; a journal dedicated to transforming the lives of organisations and individuals through experiential, collaborative forms of education and learning. Similarly, it celebrates the outstanding people that have contributed to the work of HESWBL over the last decade, including the authors and reviewers who make HESWBL possible. One of the most significant people in HESWBL’s first 10 years was Professor Ruth Helyer, who sadly passed away in 2019. Ruth’s dedication and hard work enabled HESWBL to become recognised in various journal ranking systems, move to 5 issues per year, and increase our citation record. In her loving memory, we name our annual Emerald Literati Awards, the Professor Ruth Helyer Awards. As we move into HESWBL’s next decade, we are delighted to announce we are moving to six issues per year, have over 30,000 downloads a year, and have an ever-increasing citation score. We extend a warm invitation to those who want to join us in celebrating and creating further impact in the field of HESWBL in the future.

Virtual Issue 

2011 The impact of the Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning on the development of work-related learning in the UK Pauline Armsby

2013 Workplace learning as a linchpin of Europe's lifelong learning policy: An examination of national policies with particular reference to people with long-term mental illness James Ogunleye

2014 Employability is in the eye of the beholder: Employer decision-making in the recruitment of work placement students Nick Wilton

2015 Aboriginal student strength to persist and Indigenous Knowledges in community colleges Elizabeth Erwin, Linda Muzzin

2015 Infusing work-based learning with Confucian principles: a comparative perspective Qi Sun, Haijun Kang

2016 Redefining “Employability” as something to be achieved: Utilising Tronto’s conceptual framework of care to refocus the debate James Reid

2017 A manifesto for higher education, skills and work-based learning: Through the lens of the Manifesto for Work Tony Wall

2018 Sustainability 2030: a policy perspective from the University Vocational Awards Council Mandy Samantha Crawford-Lee, Tony Wall

2019 Case study: establishing a social mobility pipeline to degree apprenticeships Stella McKnight, Sarah-Louise Collins, David Way, Pam Iannotti

2020 Identification of key employability attributes and evaluation of university graduates’ performance: Instrument development and validation Jawad Abbas, Mustafa Sagsan