The Why and What Behind Work-Based Learning

Work-Based Learning (WBL) has become one of the most talked about approaches in education. The WBL approach to learning provides real-world experience and opportunities to build skills that will prepare them to be successful in future career opportunities. According to the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, WBL is:    

“Sustained interactions with industry or community professionals in real workplace settings, to the extent practicable, or simulated environments at an educational institution that foster in-depth, firsthand engagement with the tasks required in a given career field, that are aligned to curriculum and instruction.”

As schools continue to build work-based learning programs, they have taken many different forms such as co-op programs, job shadowing, apprenticeships, and internships. Through these experiences, students have opportunities to better understand how to succeed in the workplace through exploring different careers and building the skills and knowledge in order to succeed. 

Many WBL experiences provide learners with opportunities to build valuable connections to industry and industry professionals. The networking opportunities learners have, provide valuable insights that often help learners with future job opportunities. These connections can be made from guest speakers all the way to apprenticeships. 
In the WBL continuum from ACTE, there are areas of awareness, exploration, preparation, and participation. As you think about the WBL opportunities you provide or want to provide, you want to determine how learners are able to experience each area in the continuum. More and more high school learners are graduating high school with a limited understanding of the career opportunities available, as well as what skills are needed to be successful in their desired career path. 

This research supports the belief that WBL improves student motivation. It also references the belief that students in WBL opportunities apply and extend their classroom learning. While internships and apprenticeships are normally structured, the opportunities to connect to industry professionals can look very different. Many schools across the country focus on project-based learning or authentic learning opportunities that incorporate a real-world application to learning.

One example of this is the performance tasks within Defined Learning and Defined Careers. Through these tasks, learners of all ages get the opportunity to explore careers and get put in situations that are similar to people working in the career field. Learners get the opportunity to hear about different career opportunities and apply their learning through a real-world context. When all learners are provided with these real-world learning opportunities connected to work-based learning, we are setting up future generations to be successful and meet the needs of the ever-changing workforce.                      

About the Author:

Jordan Menning is an educational consultant and leader that has a passion for making sure each learner has meaningful real-world learning experiences. His dedication to education has led him to lead educators and schools to implement project-based learning (PBL) throughout the country. Over the course of the last 12 years, Jordan has taught ELA, math, science, and STEM. Jordan has also been an instructional coach, consultant, and Future Ready leader. 


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