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Work-Based Learning Glossary

April 29, 2020

At A Glance



A workforce training model that combines paid on-the-job learning and formal classroom or online instruction to help a worker master the knowledge, skills, and competencies needed for career success.

These programs generally vary in duration, quality, and program requirements, and require no approval by state or federal apprenticeship agencies.

Apprenticeship is a career experience activity in JFF’s Work-Based Learning Framework.

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A project, often including a work portfolio, that participants in work-based learning programs generally complete as their training comes to an end.

Capstones often function as the culmination of work-based learning experiences and are intended to encourage participants to reflect on what they have learned and to demonstrate the knowledge and skills they have acquired.

career advising

A strategy for providing individuals with information and guidance related to career options and related educational pathways on an ongoing basis.

Career advising activities should generally focus on individuals’ stated interests and goals and provide them with information, such as labor market data and information about career ladders, that they will find useful as they assess their employment prospects in particular fields.

Career advising can benefit a wide range of people, from students in the middle grades to incumbent workers.

career engagement

A segment of JFF’s Work-Based Learning Framework that includes activities designed to give youth or adult learners opportunities to increase their knowledge of identified fields of interest and gain employability skills and some entry-level technical knowledge or skills.

Activities include internships, pre-apprenticeships (apprenticeship readiness), cooperative education, and service learning.

career experience

A segment of JFF’s Work-Based Learning Framework that includes activities designed to give new or incumbent individuals opportunities to work in paying jobs where they will gain skills in a particular industry or occupation in conjunction with related classroom or lab instruction, in a particular industry or occupation.

Activities include apprenticeship (including youth apprenticeship, Registered Apprenticeship, and Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs), transitional jobs, on-the-job training, and work-based courses.

career exploration

Or: career awareness

A segment of JFF’s Work-Based Learning Framework that includes activities designed to help individuals build awareness of careers.

Activities do not take place in workplaces and do not constitute work-based learning, but they do provide a foundation for work-based learning and prepare participants to make the most of their opportunities.

Activities include career fairs, industry projects, interest inventories, and mock interviews.

career exposure

A segment of JFF’s Work-Based Learning Framework that includes activities in which youth or adult learners visit workplaces for short periods of time as a way to learn about industries and associated occupations.

Activities include job shadows, company tours, mentoring, simulations, student-run enterprise, and informational interviews.

career navigation services

Activities designed to help individuals of any age and at any point in their lives manage their careers and make educational, training, and occupational choices.

Such services may be offered in K-12 schools, colleges, or universities, through training institutions or public employment agencies, in the workplace, or through organizations in the volunteer, community, or private sectors.

Career navigation activities may be one-on-one consultations or group meetings, and they can take place in person, over the phone, or via the internet. Specific services may include providing individuals with career information, assessment and self-assessment tools, counseling interviews, career education programs, internships, work-search programs, and transition services.


Or: academic coaching, intrusive advising, enhanced advising

An activity designed to help students navigate institutions and programs.

Coaching is a form of case management. It can be as simple as reminding students about important dates, or as involved as referring students to internal and external support services, such as tutoring programs or financial aid plans.

Coaching models vary considerably. Services can be provided by human beings who engage in intense, personalized case management, or by computer-based “nudging” systems that send students alerts and reminders via text message or email.


The knowledge, skills, and abilities people need in order to perform specific tasks or work in particular occupations.

Work-based learning programs emphasize the workplace as the most logical site for the teaching and learning of those competencies. Competency-based educational (CBE) programs have flexible pacing based not on the number of hours logged in the classroom or on the job but, primarily, on the participants’ ability to demonstrate that they have reached key milestones of learning.

Mastery of competencies can be assessed in multiple ways, including through authentic assessments, also known as performance assessments, that determine what students know, what they can do, and whether they are ready to advance.

Activities such as completing tasks, creating portfolios, or performing simulations are common ways for CBE students to demonstrate competency.

competency-based apprenticeship

An approach to apprenticeship founded on the premise that it’s more important for participants to attain demonstrated, observable, and measurable competencies than it is for them to spend a specific amount of time in training.

Competency-based apprenticeships differ from time-based apprenticeships in that participants in competency-based apprenticeships may adjust their pace and either complete the program ahead of schedule if they achieve competency quickly, or take additional time to master skills.

A competency‐based Registered Apprenticeship must have the same elements as other Registered Apprenticeships, with the exception of required numbers of hours of related instruction and on-the-job learning.

Competency-based apprenticeship is a career experience activity in JFF’s Work-Based Learning Framework.

competency-based frameworks

The Urban Institute, with funding from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship, developed a set of competency frameworks that can help fast-track the development of new competency-based Registered Apprenticeship programs.

Employers, apprenticeship sponsors, community colleges, workforce boards and others can use these frameworks for a range of common occupations to fast-track the development of their own apprenticeships. These frameworks were created in consultation with industry leaders and vetted with employers in the field to ensure that they reflect standard practices.

Employers and partner organizations that are developing apprenticeships use these frameworks to provide a time-saving and well-researched baselines for their work and consistency across national programs. The result is a collection of high-quality frameworks that are freely available for all to use.

cooperative education

Academic programs linked with structured work experiences through which participants acquire professional and technical skills.

Participants may earn academic credit or wages for work carried out over a limited period of time under the supervision of a professional mentor.

Cooperative education is a career engagement activity in JFF’s Work-Based Learning Framework.

earn and learn

Or: learn and earn

Work-based learning strategies designed to ensure that learners are paid for their work experiences.

This can apply to a range of work-based learning models, particularly those that provide career engagement or career experience.

employability skills

Or: soft skills, workforce-readiness skills, 21st-century skills, deeper learning

The knowledge, behaviors, and attitudes that individuals need to succeed across many occupations and common work tasks.

Employability skills that employers typically value include reliability, flexibility, initiative, the ability to work as a member of a team, writing skills, problem-solving abilities, and a capacity for leadership.

The employability skills that are most beneficial to employers—and the ways in which people use those skills on the job—vary by industry and company.

Because employability skills are tightly tied to the norms and expectations of the work environment, they are best developed in workplaces rather than in classrooms or online.

These skills complement technical skills to make an individual a strong worker.

employer of record

The company or organization that is legally responsible for the work-based learner as an employee.

The employer of record handles administrative functions such as payroll and taxes and also assumes worker liability. Generally, employers of record are the companies or organizations that host work-based learners for their workplace experiences, but a third party can sometimes serve in the role—a staffing agency can be the employer of record for temporary employees who are placed at client companies, for example.

If apprenticeship sponsors or work-based learning program leads are not employers, they should secure agreements with employers of record to ensure that the employers provide workplace experiences for the learners.


An activity that provides workplace exposure and/or industry experience for educators, including K-12 teachers, college faculty members, and counselors.

In some cases, externship participants may be former industry professionals hoping to reintroduce themselves to their professions in order to ensure that the classroom experiences they offer students are relevant and up to date. In other cases, externship participants may be unfamiliar with a particular industry and hoping to gain a better understanding to inform their work with students.

Externships are valuable not only for instructors who teach technical courses, but also for those who teach core academic subjects—because they can utilize industry knowledge to help students understand how the academic material they learn in class can be applied in the workplace.


hybrid apprenticeship

A program that combines elements of traditional, time-based Registered Apprenticeships and competency-based Registered Apprenticeships.

In hybrid apprenticeships, participants must complete a specified minimum number of on‐the‐job learning hours and related technical instruction hours, and they must also demonstrate competency in the defined subject areas. Individual apprentices may take longer than the required minimum amount of time to complete the program.

A hybrid Registered Apprenticeship must have the same elements as other Registered Apprenticeships, except apprentices who quickly gain competencies can accelerate their related instruction and on-the-job learning hours.

Hybrid apprenticeship is a career experience activity in JFF’s Work-Based Learning Framework.


individualized learning plan (ILP)

Or: personalized learning plan (PLP)

A document co-developed by students and educators to help students align their educational choices and career goals.

ILPs contain information on students’ career and postsecondary goals and chronicle their attainment of milestones related to those goals, such as number of courses taken, work-based learning experiences completed, industry-recognized credentials earned, and skills and competencies acquired.

Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program (IRAP)

Currently under development by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs will be apprenticeships that are accredited by third parties recognized by DOL.

Consistent with the standard apprenticeship elements, mandatory elements of IRAPs will include requirements that participants must be paid for the hours they work, that they will attain industry-recognized credentials upon successful completion of the program, and that they will be mentored.

Unlike Registered Apprenticeship programs, there will be no minimum requirements for time spent in on-the-job learning or completing related instruction.

In place of federal and state governments, accrediting bodies must validate industry standards and provide administrative oversight. Those bodies may include trade and industry groups, companies, nonprofit organizations, unions, or joint labor-management organizations.

Further federal guidance is forthcoming.

Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs are career experience activities in JFF’s Work-Based Learning Framework.

informational interviews

Interviews in which students or workers who are considering their career options meet with representatives of employers outside of the formal job application process.

People engage in informational interviews to learn what it’s like to work at certain organizations, find out what types of jobs are available and what skills they would need to do those jobs, and build networks of professional contacts.

Informational interviews are career exposure activities in JFF’s Work-Based Learning Framework.


An organization (or a collaboration of several organizations) that coordinates across stakeholders for effective and efficient design and implementation of work-based learning programs.

Intermediaries convene key stakeholders, such as industry partners, educational institutions, labor unions, and community-based organizations, to broker relationships and arrange for the provision of services. They conduct outreach to industry, aggregate employer demand for work-based learning, and broker placements for work-based learning participants.

Intermediaries may also support the implementation of work-based learning programs by, for example, assisting employers in writing job descriptions and onboarding employees who will supervise work-based learning participants, and assisting educational institutions in preparing work-based learning participants. Intermediaries also research, document, and advocate for best practices, and they can build public and political support for programs.

Finally, they serve as the administrative leaders of programs to reduce the workload for other participants. In the case of Registered Apprenticeships, playing the lead administrative role can mean serving as the program sponsor or as an expert partner that can assist with the state or federal registration process.

Intermediaries are often industry associations, joint labor management organizations, community colleges, workforce boards, Chambers of Commerce, or community-based organizations.


A form of experiential learning, often tied to a secondary or postsecondary program of study, in which participants work for an employer under the guidance of a supervisor for a limited period of time.

Typically lasting three to six months, internships can be paid or unpaid and give participants opportunities to learn about careers in specific industries, gain applied experience, build employability skills and technical skills, and make connections in fields that interest them.

Internships are a career engagement activity in JFF’s Work-Based Learning Framework.


job shadow

A short-term experience—only a few hours in some cases—in which students or prospective workers spend time on the job with professionals in industries or occupations that interest them.
By observing workers as they go about their day-to-day activities, job shadowing participants gain a firsthand understanding of the nature of certain occupations and find out what it’s like to work for specific employers or in particular industries.

Job shadows are a career exposure activity in JFF’s Work-Based Learning Framework.

job task analysis

A process used to inform the design of academic or training courses in which educators and employers identify the critical tasks or duties for a specific role and then break down those tasks to identify the skills that should be taught through classroom, lab, or work-based instruction.

An observer or person who works in the target occupation—along with other key employees, such as supervisors—will document critical tasks in the work day and break down the steps involved in completing those tasks. They then align the individual steps with detailed knowledge, skills, and competencies that will be taught in the course curriculum.

Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (JATC)

Or: Joint Apprenticeship Committee (JAC)

The entity responsible for administering union-affiliated Registered Apprenticeship programs.

Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committees are made up of equal numbers of labor and management representatives. The responsibilities of these committees include developing standards and designing proposals, recruiting and selecting apprentices, overseeing training instruction, handling administrative duties, and ensuring that the program complies with relevant rules and regulations.


legal and liability issues

Legal and liability issues are a common concern among employers working with students under the age of 18. For a detailed discussion of the issue, see JFF’s Not as Hard as You Think: Engaging High School Students in Work-Based Learning.



A form of workplace support for individuals participating in work-based learning programs.

In mentoring arrangements, senior employees provide guidance and assistance to participants in WBL programs, helping them navigate company culture, teaching them how to do specific tasks, and introducing them to workplace policies and procedures.

This match between students or less experienced workers with more seasoned professionals builds mentees’ employability skills and technical skills and helps them gain an understanding of the cultures—both formal and informal—of specific workplaces or industries.

For students and prospective workers, mentoring provides valuable connections to established professionals in fields that interest them. In many cases, mentors provide mentees with guidance in developing their learning objectives and help them measure their progress and proficiency.

Mentoring is a career exposure activity in JFF’s Work-Based Learning Framework.


on-the-job training (OJT)

A training model where the worker is hired and paid a reasonable wage in exchange for on-the-job skills training provided by the employer to prepare for a specific job or occupation with that employer.

OJT programs are often used for a first job in a particular industry or to advance further along the career track in their current workplace. It can be a means of training new employees, retraining or upskilling incumbent workers, or helping people who have lost their jobs in layoffs learn new skills that will help them find new jobs.

Under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), local workforce development boards develop contracts with employers to offer OJT programs that include partial federal subsidies for the wages paid to participating employees. OJT programs typically last less than six months and should result in a full-time job upon successful completion.

On-the-job training is a career experience activity in JFF’s Work-Based Learning Framework.



A collection of records documenting the achievements of participants in work-based learning programs.

Portfolios can include records of activities participants have completed or materials that provide evidence of the skills and knowledge they have gained in one or multiple WBL programs.

See capstone and prior learning assessment for examples of how portfolios are often used.


Or: apprenticeship readiness programs

A program designed to prepare individuals to enter and succeed in Registered Apprenticeships or other high-quality apprenticeship programs, and ultimately careers.

Pre-apprenticeship programs are not federally vetted, but a high-quality pre-apprenticeship would have a strong relationship with at least one apprenticeship program, feature training and curriculum that aligns with that program, and include a wide range of support services designed specifically to help participants succeed.

For more on pre-apprenticeships, read JFF’s Framework for a High-Quality Pre-Apprenticeship Program.

Pre-apprenticeship is a career engagement activity in JFF’s Work-Based Learning Framework.

prior learning assessment (PLA)

An evaluation of the knowledge and skills that students have gained outside the classroom in order to determine whether they should receive academic credit for that type of expertise.

A PLA commonly emphasizes the knowledge and skills people acquired at work, either on the job or through participation in work-based learning programs. Awarding academic credit for such knowledge and skills is often used as a way to reduce the time adult students—including incumbent workers and unemployed adults—need to earn degrees.


Registered Apprenticeship (RA)

An apprenticeship program approved by either by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship or by a State Apprenticeship Agency.

Considered the highest quality apprenticeships in the United States, Registered Apprenticeships last from one to six years and are sponsored by employers, labor management organizations, or other intermediary organizations.

They must include the basic elements that are common to all apprenticeships, but they also have to meet several additional quality requirements. For example, in order to be recognized as a Registered Apprenticeship, a program must provide approximately 2,000 hours of on-the-job learning and 144 hours of related instruction that applies to an occupation or a specific job.

Participants in Registered Apprenticeship programs receive on-the-job supervision and mentorship, are paid increasingly higher wages as they progress through their training, and earn industry-recognized credentials upon successful completion of the program.

Registered Apprenticeships are a career experience activities in JFF’s Work-Based Learning Framework.

related technical instruction

Or: related instruction

Academic, technical education that builds upon and enhances the applied skills development that takes place in on-the-job learning components of apprenticeships.

The coursework covered in related technical instruction may be delivered in a classroom, through distance learning, or in online learning formats. The material can be taught by the apprenticeship sponsor or by a partner organization, such as a community college, a technical school, or a third-party training provider. Time-based Registered Apprenticeship programs require a minimum of 144 hours of related education per year.



Virtual activities in which students learn and demonstrate critical employability and technical skills as they use industry-specific tools, resources, and processes to complete tasks and solve authentic problems similar to, or representative of, those found in real-world workplace contexts.

These extended and immersive experiences support the development of students’ abilities to think and work like professionals in particular industries through exposure to the unique ways in which people who are employed in those industries organize knowledge, use tools, and make the most of resources.

Work simulations are useful because they can serve as either an intermediate step between classroom instruction and work-based learning, or as a substitute for a job placement when workplace opportunities are not available or when students are not ready for workplace activities.

Simulations are career exposure activities in JFF’s Work-Based Learning Framework.


Generally the lead party in the planning, partnership management, and delivery of an apprenticeship program.

Registered Apprenticeship programs require a program sponsor. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship or a State Apprenticeship Agency assigns administrative and operational responsibilities to the sponsor. Those responsibilities typically include identifying program qualifications and standards, recruiting and screening applicants, developing formal agreements between employers and apprentices, defining an apprenticeship’s work processes and related instruction, setting the wage progression, and ensuring that the program meets state and federal requirements.

The sponsor can be an individual employer, a joint employer and labor organization, an employer association, or another type of intermediary.

standards of Registered Apprenticeship

A written plan that details how all of the required components of a Registered Apprenticeship will be implemented.

Key elements include the design of the on-the-job learning and related technical instruction, an outline of the supervised work processes, details of the process for evaluating and reviewing the progress of apprentices, and the progressive wage scale for apprentices.

For more detail, see Title 29, Part 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

State Apprenticeship Agency (SAA)

A federally recognized state agency that has the administrative authority to establish and monitor Registered Apprenticeship programs.

States pass state-level legislation to set up SAAs to take over management of Registered Apprenticeship programs from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship.

An SAA’s roles include promoting apprenticeships to potential sponsors and key stakeholders and providing technical assistance to create and implement programs. SAAs also ensure that existing programs are in compliance with standards and award certificates of completion to apprentices.

25 states currently administer Registered Apprenticeships with a State Apprenticeship Agency.

See Title 29, Part 29, Section 13 of the Code of Federal Regulations for detailed federal regulations.

State Apprenticeship Council (SAC)

A group of officials who serve in a regulatory or advisory role for a State Apprenticeship Agency.

State Apprenticeship Councils are required to include representatives of employer and employee organizations, as well as representatives of other organizations that are stakeholders in apprenticeships.

While their roles vary from state to state, SACs typically are responsible for establishing minimum standards for apprenticeships and approving registered apprenticeship programs and their related technical instruction. In some states, SACs are responsible for establishing policy.

student learner

A status conferred on individuals participating in workplace experience who are under the age of 18.

Granted at the state or federal level, student learner status limits restrictions on the degree to which minors can participate in workplace activities.

Examples of restrictions that may be eased for young people with student learner status include those related to working hours and those that limit the types of tasks that minors are permitted to perform in workplaces.

student-run enterprise

A functioning business based in a school and run by students with support from teachers or other school staff members.

Such operations usually serve the school and/or the community, and they are designed to help participants gain both employability skills and technical skills.

Students involved in student-run enterprises generally have opportunities to engage in many of the activities associated with running a small business, such as identifying a target market, developing a business plan, designing the services they will provide or acquiring the goods they will sell, tracking inventory, marketing, and managing revenue.

Student-run enterprise is a career exposure activity in JFF’s Work-Based Learning Framework.

supportive services

Or: wraparound services, student supports, non-academic supports, support services

Services that address the interrelated barriers preventing learners from successfully completing work-based learning programs.

Supportive services can include a broad array of social services and resources, including transportation, child care, housing, and emergency assistance. They could also include educational supports, such as financial aid, academic advising, individualized student success coaching, flexible scheduling plans, and access to mentors in academic and workplace settings.

Case managers can help connect learners with this holistic web of supports, which may be provided by educational institutions, employers, community-based organizations, independent coaches, or navigators, sometimes in partnership with one another.


technical skills

The skills people need in order to be able to complete the tasks that they are required to do on the job.

Technical skills vary from job to job and typically require occupation- or industry-specific knowledge. They often combine theoretical and applied competencies.

transitional jobs

Time-limited employment through which participants gain employability skills, become familiar with the world of work, and begin to establish successful work histories.

Designed to address challenges faced by individuals who experience barriers to employment, transitional jobs combine work with a range of supportive services, including help finding a permanent job.

Transitional job programs that meet established federal requirements may be eligible for funding under the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) or the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

Transitional jobs are a career experience activity in JFF’s Work-Based Learning Framework.


work process schedule (of Registered Apprenticeship)

A description of the skills and competencies that an individual will acquire through a Registered Apprenticeship program, as well as an outline of the ways in which the program’s on-the-job learning course will help participants acquire those skills and an estimate of number of hours required for the training.

A work process schedule is a required element of a Registered Apprenticeship, and the skills that the program is designed to teach must be skills that people need in order to be recognized as journey-level workers.

work-based courses

Community college courses that have been redesigned in partnership with employers in such a way that students learn career-related competencies not only in class, but also at work.

The students enroll for credit at a college but identify as workers and are given an opportunity to learn on the job. Work-based courses integrate the classroom and the workplace by formalizing instruction that happens on the job. They fulfill program requirements for community college certificates or degrees, while also giving students a practical understanding of the unique needs of a business.

Work-based courses are career experience activities in JFF’s Work-Based Learning Framework.

work-based learning (WBL)

An approach to training in which a student or worker completes meaningful tasks in a workplace.

Such programs are designed to prepare participants for full-time work and help them acquire the knowledge and skills they need to enter or advance in particular career fields.

Work-based learning can be a component of a continuum of lifelong learning and skill development for a range of workers and learners, including K-12 students, young adults, college students, adult jobseekers, and workers with years of experience.

When no workplace is available to host a WBL program, it may be possible to achieve many of the same objectives through simulated experiences and student-run enterprises.

workplace experience

Or: on-the-job learning

A structured, formalized approach to training in which the learner completes job tasks in a workplace under the direction of an employer.


youth apprenticeship

An apprenticeship specifically designed for and serving youth—whether in or out of school—between the ages of 16 and 24 that generally incorporates the key elements of other apprenticeship models, including paid workplace experience and related technical instruction.

Youth apprenticeships vary widely and may include elements of Registered Apprenticeships, nonregistered apprenticeships, and pre-apprenticeship programs. Partners from a variety of sectors are often engaged in the design and implementation of youth apprenticeships.

Organizations that may get involved include employers, community-based organizations, high schools, and postsecondary institutions—which may offer dual-enrollment opportunities to participants.

Youth apprenticeships are sometimes recognized at the state level, and those that are may have to meet certain requirements.

Youth apprenticeships are career experience activities in JFF’s Work-Based Learning Framework.