About Work-Based Learning

About Work-Based Learning

Work-based learning is an approach to training in which a student or worker completes meaningful tasks in a workplace.


Here’s an example of how work-based learning differs from traditional classroom instruction:

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Max's Experience (traditional, classroom-based course)

Max attends a lecture about contact and coil programming, then goes to the lab to write a PLC program that can stop or start a motor using a momentary-contact pushbutton along with a functional emergency stop cable. He asks the instructor questions about what situations might require nonstandard instructions.

Gloria's Experience (course + workplace experience)

In addition to attending class, Gloria has a job at a manufacturing plant. During one shift, she helps her supervisor wire a panel and write a PLC program that trims the excess material off parts created on the production line. She observes the process for a while and then has an opportunity to do part of it herself. While she’s working, she asks her supervisor questions about how the PLCs communicate with the drives. In class the next day, she asks the college instructor follow-up questions about when it is necessary to assign the same bit addresses to multiple coil instructions.

Gloria and other students who participate in courses that include work-based learning gain hands-on knowledge and skills that will give them an advantage as they begin or advance in their careers.

People of all ages, experience levels, and backgrounds benefit from work-based learning: from students and young adults who are just beginning their careers to adult jobseekers and people with many years of experience who need to learn new skills. Work-based learning can help people not only advance at their current companies but also change course and enter new fields.

Employers also reap enormous benefits when their employees take part in training programs that involve work-based learning: Retention rates improve and employees make fewer mistakes.

Internships, on-the-job training programs, and apprenticeships are all forms of work-based learning, and each one has different purposes and different outcomes.

Work-Based Learning Models

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Overview

Often tied to a secondary or postsecondary program of study, participants work for an employer under the guidance of a supervisor for a limited period of time and may or may not be paid.

Population Served

  • Secondary and postsecondary students
  • Opportunity youth
  • Recent college graduates
  • Working-age adults

Core Purposes

  • Exposure to a career field and/ or the world of work
  • Development of professional skills
  • Academic learning
  • Job (temporary)
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Overview

A combination of paid on-the-job learning and formal classroom or online instruction that helps a worker master the knowledge, skills, and competencies needed for career success.

Population Served

  • Individuals seeking to enter a new career field
  • Opportunity youth interested in an industry Incumbent workers seeking advancement

Core Purposes

  • Academic learning
  • Development of career-track skills
  • Job (permanent)
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Overview

A 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.

Population Served

  • Dislocated workers and low-skilled adults
  • May be incorporated in individual service plans for opportunity youth

Core Purposes

  • Development of career-track skills
  • Job (permanent)
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Overview

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

Population Served

  • Secondary and postsecondary students

Core Purposes

  • Academic learning
  • Development of career-track skills
  • Job (temporary)
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Overview

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

Population Served

  • Opportunity youth
  • Individuals with barriers to employment

Core Purposes

  • Exposure to the world of work
  • Development of professional skills
  • Job (temporary)