Combining formal, non-formal and informal learning for workforce skill development

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Combining formal, non-Combining formal non-formal and informal learning for workforce skill development

Josie Misko


The views and opinions expressed in this document are those of the

author/project team and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Government or state and territory governments

© Australian Industry Group 2008

This publication has been produced as part of the Australian Industry Group’s Skilling the Existing Workforce project. This project is a Commonwealth–State Skills Shortage Initiative funded through the Strategic National Initiatives component of the 2005–08 Commonwealth–State Agreement for Skilling Australia’s Workforce. Apart from any use permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced by any process without written permission. Requests should be made to NCVER.

The views and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Government, state and territory governments, the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) or NCVER.

ISBN 978 1 921412 61 5 web edition

TD/TNC 93.08

About the research

Combining formal, non-formal and informal learning for workforce skill development
Josie Misko

This review of literature was prepared for the national Skilling the Existing Workforce project undertaken by the Australian Industry Group (AiGroup) as part of the Commonwealth–State Skills Shortage Initiative. The aim of the national AiGroup project was to investigate strategies and programs which increase the skills, knowledge and capabilities of individuals and groups in the workforce and those wishing to enter the workforce. This review was commissioned to augment the findings of the national AiGroup investigation by providing a greater focus on how formal, non-formal1 and informal2 learning and practical organisational strategies and initiatives are used and recognised in workforce development.

Combining formal, non-formal and informal learning for workforce development by Josie Misko shows how multiple variations and combinations of formal, informal and non-formal learning, accompanied by various government incentives, and organisational initiatives (including job redesign, cross-skilling, multi-skilling, diversified career pathways, action learning projects, quality assurance arrangements, job rotations, and mentoring programs) can be used to prepare workers to gain, maintain or progress through jobs.

Key messages

  • Formal learning continues to be the main route to recognised qualifications, required for entry into jobs, especially regulated occupations. However, informal learning acquired through experience in work and life is the most frequently used of all the learning forms.

  • Employers are mostly interested in the results of learning rather than the form of learning. What they want are essential technical skills and knowledge required for jobs and for compliance with legislative requirements. They are also keen to have problem-solving, team work and communication skills.

  • Workers with higher levels of education and training continue to access greater amounts of learning (formal and non-formal) than others. If we are serious about extending the source of skills, we must invest in the learning of those with lower levels of education and training.

  • Accelerated apprenticeship training which often relies on recognition of prior learning and self-paced gap training may be problematic for individuals who do not have the required literacy and numeracy skills for independent study.

This review provides examples of how different learning forms supported by government incentives and organisational practice operate in the skill development of new and existing workers. However, the concept of workforce development is even broader and includes other human resource aspects such as performance management, and recruitment and retention strategies. Such aspects should not be forgotten by governments and employers when developing policies to increase the skill levels of the workforce.
Tom Karmel
Managing Director, NCVER


Combining formal, non-Combining formal non-formal and informal learning for workforce skill development 1

Josie Misko 1


About the research 3

Key messages 3

Contents 5

Tables and figures 6

Executive summary 7

Findings 7

Conclusions 8

Background 10

Introduction 10

Formal, non-formal and informal learning defined 11

Supplementing work with access to formal, informal and non-formal learning 11

Non-formal workshops or classes 13

Participation in employer-sponsored informal, non-formal and formal learning 15

Blurred boundaries 16

Structure of the report 17

Alternating on- and

off-the-job training 19

Apprenticeships 19

Combining informal, non-formal and formal learning for accelerated completion 20

Integrating work with learning 22

Integrated work and learning programs 22

Action learning strategies 24

Recognising skills acquired through informal and
non-formal learning 26

Coaching and mentoring 28

Coaching for career development 28

Mentoring 29

Benefits and concerns 30

Keys to success 30

Diversifying jobs and career pathways 31

Job redesign 31

Cross-skilling and multi-skilling 32

Job rotation 33

Diversifying career pathways 33

Using new technologies in compliance and workplace training 34

Increased automation 34

E-learning 35

Conclusions 37

Key findings 37

Concluding remarks 40

References 41

Appendix A:

Evidence on workplace training 43

Appendix B: Examples of accelerated apprenticeships 44

Appendix C: Examples of mentoring programs 48

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