Assessing work-based values: The missing link in improving youth employability


  • Andrew Paterson JET Education Services
  • Roelien Herholdt JET Education Services
  • James Keevy JET Education Services
  • Bina Akoobhai The Swiss-South African Cooperation Initiative (SSACI)



Values, workplace, work-based, youths, work, assessment


Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges are intended to equip youths with work-relevant skills, but the capacity of the labour market to absorb them is limited and South Africa has high levels of unemployment. Employers argue that young work-seekers from TVET colleges may well possess technical skills but lack employability skills, including appropriate work-based attitudes and values. In response to this scenario, a team of experts designed a short, interactive programme for TVET college students to acquire an improved understanding of and insight into their own values and how these inform their behaviour in the workplace. The values selected were respect, accountability, self-improvement and perseverance. The programme’s intended outcome was to increase the participants’ awareness of the link between values and their actions so that they could improve their own decision-making and their relationships with colleagues in the workplace. Following this programme, the students were afforded a period of workplace exposure during which they were required to reflect on their experience and how workplace behaviour revealed their own and work colleagues’ underlying values. A crucial challenge for the project team was to be able to measure any impact on the participants’ understanding of the values and how this understanding might guide their behaviour. The focus of this article is on how the assessment instrument was conceptualised, designed and piloted in South Africa and Kenya. The instrument was required to measure effectively any changes in the participants’ understanding of the meaning of each value and the adjustments in their ability to apply the values in real work-based scenarios.

Author Biographies

Andrew Paterson, JET Education Services

Andrew Paterson has taught Sociology of Education at universities in South Africa. Prior to joining JET Education Services, he was a researcher at the Human Sciences Research Council and the Development Bank of Southern Africa. His current interests include skills formation and national development, education accountability, work values and skilling migrant workers.

Roelien Herholdt, JET Education Services

Roelien Heholdt holds a master’s degree in educational psychology as well as honours degrees in clinical psychology (with specialisation in cognitive psychology), special educational needs and school counselling. She has a wealth of experience in psychological and educational assessment, remedial teaching, learning support and quantitative research spanning more than 25 years.

James Keevy, JET Education Services

James Keevy is a policy researcher with specific areas of expertise in qualifications, the recognition of learning, digitalisation and the professionalisation and migration of teachers. He has worked closely with several international agencies, including the OECD, ILO, World Bank, Commonwealth Secretariat, Commonwealth of Learning, SADC Secretariat, African Union Commission and others.

Bina Akoobhai, The Swiss-South African Cooperation Initiative (SSACI)

Bina Akoobhai’s expertise lies in research and tracer studies; teacher development; curriculum development; TVET college improvement and work-integrated learning. She has been conducting research into the TVET sector in South Africa since 2009, relating to the monitoring and evaluation of TVET colleges, the quality of teaching and learning in colleges and pathways to employment for college graduates.




How to Cite

Andrew Paterson, Roelien Herholdt, James Keevy, & Bina Akoobhai. (2021). Assessing work-based values: The missing link in improving youth employability. Journal of Vocational, Adult and Continuing Education and Training, 4(1), 21.