Today's high school students are the future of our workforce. Before long they will be in college or starting full-time jobs of their own. But how are today's students preparing for their futures? What will the workforce look like when these students move on to the next stage of their lives?
Schools, districts, and even state education departments provide various programs for students to gain relevant work experience and gain necessary skills outside of the classroom.
What Are These Programs?
There are a number of school-based programs that support student growth through work such as:
- Work-based learning programs
- Internship programs
- Cooperative Education programs
- Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs
- Job Shadowing
Why are These Programs Important?
These programs allow students to have more than just a part-time job after school. These programs are focused. They are designed to assist the student in gaining the most out of their experiences. Students aren’t just working and then signing off that they did the work… they are working, meeting certain criteria, and reporting back on what they learned in their job that week or their apprenticeship or from their internship. They are being observed and critiqued on if they are showing up to work on time. Are they following instructions? Are they taking advantage of leadership opportunities? Are they communicating well?
These programs are focused and designed to engage each student in their area of focus or their job to ensure they are reflecting on their experiences and learning from them.
What are students learning?
Through these programs, students are learning valuable life and work skills - skills they might not learn in the classroom. They are being assessed, their progress toward certain goals is being monitored, and they are self-reflecting on the things they are learning. Many WBL and CTE programs track the development of skills such as:
- Basic work skills
- Showing up on time
- Completing assigned tasks
- Time management
- Specific industry skills
- Abilities needed for a certain job
- Tasks required for certain areas of work
- Certifications needed for certain roles
- Soft skills
- Leadership roles
- Personal accountability
- Critical thinking skills
How does this impact their future?
These programs prepare students by giving them opportunities to learn skills they will inevitably need as they enter the workforce. Academics provide them with knowledge and work and service programs provide them with the skills they need.
After high school, some students move on to community college or a four-year university. Other students move straight into the workforce. Other students move on to trade school and then into the workforce in a trade of their choice.
The skills they learn through these high school programs, however, set them up for success. They aren’t learning these skills while they are in college or in their first job. They learn them early on in programs designed to help them identify areas of growth and then succeed in those areas.
For example, work-based learning programs allow students to work part-time jobs after school. Students will record their hours and experience and often report back to their coordinators on what they learned or skills they utilized during their shifts.
CTE programs provide opportunities for high school students to focus on a trade and spend time learning specific skills necessary for that trade. Students can then move on to trade school after high school already prepared with the basic skills they will need. Introducing trade schools as an option for students at an early stage provides students with more options after high school.
Related article: Is Gen Z Interested in Trade Work?
Job shadowing programs are excellent ways for young students to get a glimpse into potential careers. There’s value in discovering what they like and don’t like and what they have natural talents for or things that might not be their cup of tea. Job shadowing provides a look into the real workforce for students by seeing what someone in that profession experiences on a daily basis. These real-world experiences provide valuable insight for students by taking concepts of what a job might be and seeing the reality of the work.
Resources to support student work programs
These programs are excellent opportunities for students to gain knowledge and skills, but administrators need support in sustaining these programs day to day. That’s where x2VOL comes in. Click below to download our e-guide and learn more about how x2VOL supports the facilitation of hours and development tracking for student work programs or view our platform demo.