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The evolution of work-based learning in Italy

In a rapidly changing world, education and training are called upon to play a key role in the acquisition of skills and competences useful for managing future societal and economic changes.

In order to respond effectively to the new challenges and opportunities, there is the need for a new training model based on skills’ development: aimed at improving basic skills but also at investing in more complex skills for assistance, resilience and adaptability.

In this context, the 2019 Italian Budget Law provided for the renaming of the work-based learning programme (the so called Alternanza Scuola-Lavoro) in "Paths for Transversal Skills and for Orientation" - henceforth called PCTO - and, starting from the 2018/2019 school year, they are implemented at secondary school level over the final three years of the course.

This decision perfectly matches with the European emphasis competence-based teaching and changes the traditional orientation culture and the traditional information-based approach in favor of a training based on experiential and autonomous learning, even in a non-formal context.

The PCTOs, differently from the Alternanza Scuola-Lavoro, promote the development of transversal skills and place students in the condition of self-orientation through the active protagonism of the learning subject in extracurricular and professional contexts, also abroad.

  • The design of the PCTOs must balance:
  • 1. the curricular dimension;
  • 2. the experiential dimension;
  • 3. the orientation dimension.
  • The three dimensions have to be integrated into a unitary path that aims to develop skills – both transversal and technical-professional, useful to the student for studies and life choices and applicable to working environment.

    In particular, schools plan a personalized path for the development of specific transversal skills identified as learning outcomes. The PCTOs therefore are configured as an integral part of the formal curriculum to be performed not necessarily in tandem with the school time, especially when the PCTO is located outside the school environments, but with a binding minimum number of hours for each educational institutions, ranging from a minimum of 90 hours for high schools, 150 hours for technical institutes and 210 hours for professional institutes.

    It is clear that the preparation, implementation and continuous improvement of a process of development of transversal skills and orientation actions must be validated by a quality assurance system, through documentation, monitoring, evaluation and archiving of the entire process carried out, also for the dissemination of good practices. This system also foresees the creation of two figures: the school tutor and the external tutor develop the personalized training course and assist and guide the student and manage relations with the context where the learning experience takes place.

    Best regards,
    Federica D'Acunto

    Legislative Decree 15 April 2005, no. 77.
    Law 30 December 2018, no. 145 “Paths for Transversal Skills and for Orientation – Guidelines”.