WBL professionals: trainers, tutors and mentors (VET and in company)

Several kind of professionals are usually involved in the provision of WBL across Europe. However, in the framework of LINK-INC project, trainers, tutors and mentors are the most common WBL professionals. There is not a common competence profile defined for these professionals but a general description should include a mix of the following characteristics:

  • technical skills, soft skills, communication skills, intercultural skills, negotiation skills
  • ability to anticipate sector-specific needs, to make the VET pathway attractive, to deal with challenging behaviour, open-mindedness and the ability to make the learner feel welcome.

A comprehensible way to classify WBL professionals can be found on the basis of their field of work.

(a) Professionals working on I-VET (Initial Vocational Education and Training)
They provide training in workplace environments to apprentices and to young students in work placements.

  • Qualified trainers of apprentices or learners in alternance schemes, apprenticeship masters.
  • Skilled workers who oversee practical training of students in the workplace, workplace tutors, mentors, supervisors.
  • Teachers and/or trainers conducting practical classes in VET schools, for example, in school laboratories or workshops.

(b) Professionals working on C-VET (Continuing Vocational Education and Training)

  • Full-time trainers in large companies (in-company or subcontracted)
  • Skilled workers or owners of SMEs performing training-related functions, for example, induction of new employees to the company and/or training other employees.
  • VET teachers/trainers in school-based contexts, if CVET is provided through VET schools.
  • External trainers who usually work as freelancers or for training providers.

(c) In-company professionals (working inside enterprises)

  • In-company trainers who perform training tasks as the major part of their occupational role – full-time or part-time.
  • Employees whose occupational role includes a particular training-related function (owner, general manager, supervisor, skilled worker).

European countries share a wide consensus on the job title and work responsibilities of those WBL professional working on I-VET and C-VET. On the other hand, in-company trainers have numerous titles (supervisor, mentor, job instructor, professional learning agent, work place facilitator, job coach) and their work responsibilities are not so clear.

The Research conducted by partners of LINK-INC project at national and European level showed that the most common WBL professionals in the project framework are trainers, tutors and mentors. The main roles of these professionals, in VET organizations and in company, are briefly described for the purposes of LINK-INC Handbook.

WBL Trainers

Most commonly they are I-VET teachers (on education and training centers), adult education trainers, trainers in large companies or external trainers from C-VET providers.

Their main role is to instruct learners in the skills of the specific field of training. That is why in VET official centers trainers need a certificate of qualification in the teaching staff of vocational education.

The specific profile of trainers tend to include primarily subject-specific expertise, methodological competence, repertoire of training methods, didactic skills and communication skills (preparation of content), as well as social skills. Other skills related with this profile are design skills, creative/conceptive competence, group dynamic skills, diagnosis and intervention, as well as process orientation, process control, discussion of values, attitudes, capacity for self-reflection and assessment.

WBL Tutors

This profile is the main link between education sphere and enterprises world. Tutors are responsible for monitoring the training/productive activities from learners in the company. To do so they use to develop coaching and counselling roles related both with education and with labour organizations.

The main role of tutors is to contribute to the acquisition of work competencies by the learners in the company, in accordance with the expected qualification. This is made by following and accompanying the learner during the practical period of training (apprenticeship, internships or traineeship)

Tutors are the professionals that usually manage the planning, monitoring and evaluation of the whole process of WBL, in collaboration with trainers and mentors. By means of tutoring services and individualized assessment.

The main tasks of VET tutors are to develop/agree a specified training programme, to inform and guide learners during the process, to hold regular meetings with learns and with other tutors (VET/in-company), to evaluate the performance of the learner and assess the achievement of predefined learning outcomes. On the other hand, in-company tutors, are responsible of direct the training activities of learners in the workplace, guide learners during their stay in the company, assess learners progress and contribute to their final evaluation.

WBL Mentors

The main role of WBL mentors is to enable and encourage the learner/employee by giving the right proportion of direction and emotional support.

On a basic level, WBL mentor is similar to an instructor with also the functions of a coach, based on practical experience and day-to-day support. The more appropriate function for mentors is being a development coach, which is a mentor aimed at the achievement of personal and professional learners’ growth.

Other relevant roles of WBL mentors are:

  • Coaching a learner (mentee, trainee or internee) to develop a specific skill
  • Helping students to learn from practical experiences by supporting and challenging them
  • Assist learners to identify areas for growth and development (give vision)
  • Support the learning in the frame of career development
  • Provide psychological support, counselling and advice

CEDEFOP and the European Commission have created the Thematic Working Group (TWG) on professional development of trainers in VET. The guiding principles for professional development of in-company trainers in VET have been formulated by the TWG in 2014. The following guiding principles constitute a useful approach for promoting the development of WBL professionals.

  • Trainers are lifelong learners: recognise their identity and work; support their lifelong learning.
  • Companies’ support is crucial for trainers’ CPD: raise awareness of benefits and get companies on board in supporting training and trainers.
  • Trainers’ competence development benefits from a systematic approach: define what trainers need, provide training and learning opportunities, recognise competences.
  • Supporting trainers in companies is a shared responsibility: ensure effective cooperation and coordination.
  • Competent trainers in companies matter: make them part of a broader agenda and use all available funds and programmes.