Magazine article Techniques

Work Based Learnng in Policy and Practice

Magazine article Techniques

Work Based Learnng in Policy and Practice

Article excerpt

At its core, work-based learning (WU) is an instructional strategy to connect students---and sometimes educators--with industry or community prokssionals to foster deeper knowledge and understanding of a given career field or particular occupation. It can come in many shapes and sizes, from low-intensity career-awareness activities, such as a business leader speaking to students, to high-intensity career training, such as apprenticeships, and can begin as early as kindergarten and continue into adulthood.

For students, WBL links classroom learning and a real-world context by applying their academic knowledge and technical skills in a concrete way, as well as expanding their curiosity and interest in a given career field. Research shows that students who participate in VVBL have lower dropout rates and higher attendance, graduation and college enrollment rates than their peers who do not par-ticipate. (1) (2) (3) A study of British secondary school students found that four instances of A employer contact while in school increased the students' potential wage earnings by 18 percent, compared to their peers who did not have similar interactions. (4)

The benefits of work-based learning for employers are equally compelling. Many of the skills employers are clamoring for--leadership, communication and problem solving (5)--are the kind that are best learned by being in a work environment. Meaningful NA.BL experiences, developed through strong partnerships between career and technical education (CTE) programs and employers, can help accelerate student learning and provide opportunities to build those critical emvability skills (as well as the in-demandte.I mica! skills) in an authentic setting. VBL, in particular intensive programs like internships and apprenticeships, can also afford employers the opportunity to directly recruit the most talented potential employees before they ever enter the labor market.

Despite these benefits--supported by research and understood by the 62 percent of parents who believe students should experience an internship before graduating high school (6)--U.S. stildents spend the least amount of time lean ii in a work-based setting when compared to 12 other developed countries. (7) This begs the question orwhv and what can we do about it.

'Jo explore this question, as well as other ways states can foster employer engage-in CTE, the National Association of State Directors olCareer rtechnical Education Consortium (NASDCTEC) recently released the report "The State of Career Technical Education: Employer Engagement in CTE."The report is based on a survey of 47 state CTE directors and interviews with a dozen state leaders.

The State's Role in Supporting Work-based Learning

In many ways, work-based learning is a. local endeavor, with most programs and relationships forged between individual schools and companies. However, states can and do have a role in supporting and encouraging high-quality WBL by leveraging both federal and state policy.

On the federallevel, eight states are leveraging the federal investment in GTE. the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins), by requiring institutions to offer WBL opportunities in order to access these funds.

Beyond Perkins, states are tapping o a range of options, including state funding, legislation, rulemaking and guidance. Within secondary CTE programs, 17 states reported encouraging work-based learning as a statewide effort to engage employers, and 12 have statewide efforts at the postsecondary level.

In 2013, West Virginia launched a new program, Simulated Workplaces, to help students apply their academic, technical and employability skills by bringing he environment of a workplace inside the classroom and grounding student learning in a real-world context. Classrooms become "companies" and students become employees who must adhere to industry standards. …

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