So how can you define a federal program that has so much participation and variation throughout the United States?
It’s a challenge — but we’re going to do it here!
Defining Work-Based Learning
On paper,work-based learning is any program that places students both in the classroom and the workplace.
But because it’s a government-run program, it has stringent requirements.
These requirements place a strong emphasis onactivities, among other concepts.
A successful work-based learning program has to include activities that meet individual states’ definitions of appropriate instruction.
The DOE usesVirginia as an example. Virginia has seven “types” of work-based learning strategies that are grouped into career exploration, pre-professional development, and career preparation.
Your state may use a similar model. It could also be completely different!
In addition to activities, work-based learning requires states to develop a uniqueframeworkthat comes with an implementation guide.
The DOE usesTennessee as an example for this quality. Tennessee goes above and beyond in this area by providing resources that tell educators what they need to know before, during, and after students get placed in work-based learning programs.
Third, all work-based programs must receiveinputfrom local employers.
That means the state is responsible for coordinating meetings with local employers and educators to verify the quality of work-based learning.
Meetings can cover student experiences in a work-based learning program, employer ideas for future changes, and even credentials that participants may earn for their time!
Finally, all states must provideprofessional developmentto teachers, administrators, and other participants involved in work-based learning.
Essentially, that means states have to give educators the tools and knowledge they need to make work-based learning programs successful.
States accomplish this in different ways.
Once again, the DOE uses Tennessee as an example because it offers credits and certifications for its educators.
Virginia, on the other hand, makes it possible for teachers to visit specific employers throughout the state.
Your state may have an entirely different system in place.
But at the end of the day, they all ensure teachers, administrators, and employers are all on the same page for work-based learning!
All of that information leads us to another big question, though. If work-based learning is a federally-sanctioned activity, but every state can customize its own programs, then what types of work-based learning systems exist?
Qualities of Work-Based Learning
The type, scope, and funding of work-based learning programs varies throughout the United States.
Work-based learning is supported at the federal level through Perkins funding, the Every Student Succeeds Act, and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
However, that support from the federal level doesn’t make every single state’s work-based learning programs the same.
In general, you’ll have to look into five main areas of interest to create a program:
Define work-based learning for the state
Identify activities that fit the state’s definition
Develop the work-based learning framework
Obtain employer input for components and quality in work-based learning
Establish professional development for administrators and teachers
That may seem like a lot of work, but it’s possible! Many states in the US have already created successful work-based learning programs, some of which dovetail with othercareer readiness prioritiesthat the state set years ago.
But that’s big-picture stuff! Besides, a lot of state governments already took care of those steps anyway.
What if you want to set up work-based learning in your school district?
When you start creating a work-based learning program in your local area, you don’t have to worry quite so much about the major parts of the system or how it works.
Instead, it’s more important that you look into the details.
Those details include:
Addressing employer liability concerns
Vouching for your students to participating employers
Offering different levels of participation for different companies
Networking with companies, managers, and employees
These finer details are concerned with getting employers on the same page as you and your administration for a work-based learning program.
It also requires you to vouch for the character of your participating students, which places you on the line for their behavior in the workplace.
That’s why it’s important for you to be clear, conscientious, and selective with your students.
This is the area where you have the most discretion as a teacher in work-based learning.
You get to decide how you present the program to your students and how to get them on board.
The sky is the limit when it comes tohowyou do this. If you want a few ideas, we have some ideas you can use to start some traction:
Appeal to a student’s desire to get out of the classroom
Emphasize that students can earn money and experience at the same time
Bring previous students into the classroom to talk about work-based learning, if available
Bring employers into the classroom to talk about their companies
Incentivize non-traditional students with grades based on their workplace performance instead of traditional classroom performance
These five ideas are just starting points, and you may have some ideas that completely differ.
And you should!
After all, you know your students best.
Using that knowledge will help drive you to the perfect way to presentwork-based learningto your classes — no matter their age!
How to Accomplish Work-Based Learning with a Comprehensive CTE Curriculum
With work-based learning becoming more common in CTE programs, teachers and administrators are scrambling for curriculum.
In fact, many educators have asked if AES’s CTE curriculum can help with work-based learning.
The short answer is yes! But you need more than just a one-word answer.
When teachers ask us this question, they really want to know exactly how AES helps teachers and students have success with work-based learning!