According to the Department of Education, successful work-based learning education has three important elements: “the alignment of classroom and workplace learning; application of academic, technical, and employability skills in a work setting; and support from the classroom or workplace mentors”.
In recent years, districts and state education departments have been striving to bridge the gap between classroom learning and real-world application. Work-Based Learning (WBL) and Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs have emerged as powerful solutions to this challenge. By providing students with hands-on experiences in professional settings, these programs offer opportunities for skill development, career exploration, and personal growth. A successful WBL program can significantly improve student outcomes by setting them on a path to success.
Cincinnati Public Schools is a prime example of a district striving for improved student outcomes.
Their state requires tracking of certain graduation seals; some focus on CTE and WBL. Because of this, the district tracks student progress through various WBL and CTE programs that have students in internships, specialized classes, after-school jobs, job shadowing experiences, and more.
The district uses this state requirement as an opportunity to engage students in meaningful growth and helps prepare students for life after high school.
The goal at Cincinnati Public Schools is student preparedness:
“Our dream here (at Cincinnati Public Schools) and our vision is that when students are going for jobs even after high school, they can have a report with them in their interview, really as a part of a portfolio to say ‘You can look at this report and you can see these are the activities that I completed as a part of my high school program’.” – Mike Turner, Career and Technical Education Manager, Cincinnati Public Schools
Providing students with real-world experiences sets them up for success post high school.
The Benefits of WBL:
Student outcomes are improved through a successful Work-Based Learning or Career and Technical Education program in a number of ways. These include:
One of the primary benefits of WBL is the enhancement of students' skill sets. By exposing students to real-world challenges and responsibilities, they acquire practical job skills that cannot be fully replicated in the classroom:
- Job Skills: Students learn basic but very important job skills and expectations to set them up for success in the real world. They can also gain skill proficiency in fields they are interested in.
- Soft Skills: Interpersonal communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and time management are just a few examples of soft skills that students develop through interactions in professional settings that will be necessary for future employment.
Work-Based Learning programs provide a unique opportunity for students to explore potential career paths. Through hands-on experiences in different industries, students can:
- Identify Interests: Working in a professional setting allows students to assess their interests and passions, helping them make more informed career decisions or be exposed to careers they don’t want to pursue.
- Build Networks: Networking with professionals in their field of interest exposes students to potential mentors and future job opportunities.
- Refine Career Goals: Early exposure to different career options helps students set realistic and achievable career goals. In addition, they can make informed choices about what post high school education is suitable for their desired career.
Personal Growth and Confidence:
Being immersed in a professional environment empowers students to become more confident and independent individuals. They learn to:
- Take Initiative: By actively participating in real work scenarios, students gain the confidence to take initiative and showcase their leadership.
- Overcome Challenges: Dealing with real-world challenges helps students build resilience and problem-solving capabilities.
- Personal Growth: Exposure to different work cultures and expectations fosters personal growth and maturity in students.
- Finding Belonging: When students discover meaning behind their work or see the impact of their time and effort, they develop a sense of belonging. Whether it’s through volunteering or through their job, students can see the direct impact of their skills increasing a sense of personal meaning and belonging.
Bonus Content: Finding Belonging Through Service
Preparing for the Future:
All of this boils down to preparedness. High school WBL programs acts as a bridge between education and the workforce. It facilitates a seamless transition for students into the professional world through:
- Gaining Work Experience
- Skill Development
- Personal Discovery
School districts play a crucial role in supporting student outcomes through work-based learning programs in high school. These programs are designed to provide students with real-world experiences and opportunities to develop essential employability skills and discover potential career paths. They learn both practical and soft skills while increasing confidence and leadership – all elements that will help a student succeed after high school.
By implementing and supporting work-based learning programs in high schools, districts can better prepare students for successful transitions to the workforce, higher education, or vocational training, ultimately leading to improved student outcomes and career readiness.
Learn more about managing these student programs with x2VOL. x2VOL makes it easy to track WBL and CTE programs online in one easy-to-use platform where districts can see student growth through real-time reports on student service and work.