The goal of the classroom is to help set children up for their future in the workforce, but sometimes it can be hard to imagine what the “real world” is like from within the confines of a high school environment.

Research shows that exposing high school students to real-world career opportunities can help them carve out a better path for their future. So districts offer work-based learning programs as a way to help prepare the next generation for the workforce. Planning a future career while still in high school can be daunting, but work-based learning can help take some of that weight off students’ shoulders.

What is work-based learning?

Work-based learning is an education strategy that allows high school students the opportunity to participate in real-life work experiences. This exposure to the workforce gives them critical understanding of the jobs they’re interested in, and incentive to improve their academic and technical skills in order to become better qualified for that job down the road.

How does work-based learning work?

The type, scope, and funding of work-based learning programs varies throughout the United States. Work-based learning programs are supported at the federal level through Perkins funding, the Every Student Succeeds Act, and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

To help clarify parameters, the U.S. Department of Education has stated that any work-based learning program must contain the following three components:

1) Application
In order to qualify as work-based learning, the program must foster the application of academic, technical, and employability skills in a work setting.

2) Alignment
The program must also feature the alignment of classroom and workplace learning.

3) Support
The program must include support from classroom or workplace mentors.

Examples of work-based learning activities include internships, job shadows, career fairs, guest speakers, and more. When planned and implemented thoughtfully, work-based learning delivers compelling, integrated experiences for students to gain early exposure to career pathways to promote relevant skill development.

Why is work-based learning important?

The positive impact of work-based learning is far-reaching. It is in fact a win-win-win because it benefits administrators, educators and students alike.

Work-based learning gives students a chance to glimpse and better understand their future careers. It allows them to gain experience and build critical job skills early, which ultimately better positions them for success — and a higher salary. And because work-based learning provides an immersive workplace experience, students gain key exposure to the working world and learn at a young age endless important lessons, such as why it’s important to be punctual and how to give and receive feedback.

When provided equitably in a community, work-based learning also creates a bridge to economic self-sufficiency by providing students with a head start on postsecondary programs, including opportunities to earn college credits and industry certifications before graduation. This results in more robust talent pipelines and gives employers access to a much more diverse labor pool.

At Naviance, we are committed to helping your business or organization achieve its work-based learning goals. If you need help organizing a work-based learning curriculum, reach out!