Work Experience Guide

This guide is designed to help develop Work Experience activities that work for youth and young adults, host employers and organizations, and Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) programs. It is part of the DYCD Work-Based Learning Toolkit, which provides proven approaches and strategies to create high-quality, safe and legal Work-Based Learning experiences for youth and young adults enrolled in the Learn & Earn Program in New York City.

Work Experience Overview

Work Experience is a Career Preparation activity in which a youth or young adult is at a worksite doing real work for pay. The youth or young adult is held to the same expectations as all employees and will be evaluated by the workplace supervisor based on workplace expectations and performance. Work Experiences range from regular, paid employment in summer and/or year-round jobs to subsidized employment and learning-rich work experience. There are also a range of Work Experience program types defined at the state and federal levels. (See State and Federal Work Experience Fact Sheet.)

High-quality Work Experiences are designed, supported and structured to meet specific learning outcomes, be educationally rich, and build awareness of the business, its industry sector, its role in the economy and the career options it provides.

Work Experiences are designed to:

  • Expose youth and young adults to careers and jobs
  • Develop Work Readiness Professional Skills
  • Build occupational knowledge and technical skills
  • Provide youth and young adults with training about potential workplace hazards and how to protect themselves
Subsidized Work Experience

In subsidized Work Experience, the youth or young adult’s wages are subsidized (i.e., paid not by the workplace but by the program through an outside funding source, usually a state- or federally funded program). In these cases, the program is the actual employer, subsidizes all wages and is responsible for taxes and workers’ compensation insurance. The youth or young adult must be paid at least the federal, state or local minimum wage (whichever is higher) for all hours worked.

Learning-Rich Work Experience

Learning-Rich Work Experience is a type of Work Experience that is highly structured to promote learning through paid work. The youth or young adult participates in planning the work and problem solving. Worksite supervisors act as coaches. The experiences are generally based on projects (instead of tasks) where youth and young adults interact with each other and with regular employees. They often work in teams and are paid an appropriate wage. In addition to the desired elements of Work Experience, Learning-Rich Work Experiences are designed to promote:

  • Facilitation of an active learning process
  • Exploration of a career field of interest
  • Development of research and project-based skills
  • Development of teamwork skills
  • Demonstration of the Work-Readiness Professional Skills
Transitional Jobs

Transitional Jobs combine wage-paid work, job skills training, and supportive services to help individuals facing barriers to employment succeed in the workforce. Transitional Jobs program participants earn a paycheck, learn skills, may become eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, and receive intensive mentoring and support. Transitional Jobs have also been referred to as public service jobs, community service jobs and publicly funded employment.

State and Federal Work Experience

The New York State Education Department and the U.S. Department of Labor have developed definitions of Work Experience that apply to the programs they sponsor. These definitions are provided in the State and Federal Fact Sheet: Work Experience.

The Importance of Structured Activity

All Work Experiences should include structured activity before, during and after the experience. These activities help ensure that all involved parties have meaningful, productive experiences that result in enriched learning. Proper planning and preparation, attention to legal and safety details, maximization of learning potential, and communication and support for the youth/young adult, worksite supervisor and employer will help ensure success.

Sustaining and growing Work Experience opportunities and all other Work-Based Learning types depend upon developing and maintaining positive relationships with the employers and organizations that are providing opportunities to the youth and young adults being served. These employers and organizations should be treated as valued customers and partners with frequent check-ins to address participation needs as they arise.

Work Experience Tools

Tip sheets and checklists for program staff, employer or organization partners, and youth and young adults are provided in this toolkit to help design, structure and support Work Experiences to maximize learning. Each tip sheet supplements the Work-Based Learning essential elements described in this toolkit, and provides a set of success factors and lists of activities or tasks to perform before, during and after the experience. A fact sheet for prospective host employers and one describing state and federal work experience programs are also provided. Note: These tools and materials are available in Word format to allow for programs to brand appropriately and include contact information.

The Work-Based Learning Plan and Evaluation tool provided in this toolkit can be a valuable tool to help plan, support, assess and document the Work Experience.

In this Tool Packet:
Program Staff Tip Sheet: Work Experience Success Factors A tip sheet for Learn & Earn Program staff
Youth/Young Adult Tip Sheet: Work Experience Success Factors A tip sheet to help youth and young adults get the most out of their Work Experience
Supervisor Tip Sheet: Work Experience Success Factors A tip sheet for participating supervisors
Employer Fact Sheet: Work Experience A fact sheet that describes what’s involved in a company providing a Work Experience
State and Federal Fact Sheet: Work Experience A fact sheet describing New York State Work Experience programs and definitions from the U.S. Department of Labor
Tools Work-Based Learning Plan and Evaluation Tool

New York City Youth and Young Adult Career Pathways