Quality Work-Based Learning

This overview provides an introduction to the principles of Quality Work Based Learning (WBL) and lays the foundation for developing any Work-Based Learning experience. The WBL Quality Standards presented here, when paired with the Ten Essential Elements presented in this guide, serve as an easy reference for DYCD programs when creating high-quality, learning-rich experiences across the continuum of Work-Based Learning activities. These experiences can have powerful impacts on youth and young adults as they build their knowledge of potential careers, explore areas of interest and develop, practice and demonstrate new skills. They can also help refocus attention and effort on academic and occupational learning in the classroom or workshop.

What is Quality Work-Based Learning?

Work-Based Learning is defined by many as activities that occur at a workplace, providing structured learning experiences for youth and young adults through exposure to a range of occupations and career options. Some consider classroom or workshop activities that incorporate employers as speakers, advisors or career mentors to be Work-Based Learning, while others include a wide range of activities informed by a career context. In the main, this guide focuses on those activities that take place in the workplace, or those that involve an employer and youth connection. Youth and young adults learn by observing and/or actually doing real work. Learning in the workplace supports academic and occupational learning and promotes the development of broad transferable skills.

Why Work-Based Learning?

High-quality Work-Based Learning provides opportunities for the acquisition of academic, technical and workplace/professional skills among youth and young adults engaged in a Career Pathways approach to education and training through the Learn & Earn Program. Regardless of industry, employers consistently underscore that new workers must have experience and mastery in all three skill areas (academic, occupational and professional), with a growing priority on the development of professional skills. To support youth and young adults in developing these skills, authentic workplace experiences are important when combined with academic study, classroom training or workshops and other college and career-readiness activities. Workplace Tours, Guest Speakers, Informational Interviews, Job Shadowing, Work Experience, Career Mentoring, Workplace Challenges and Internships provide real-world context and the opportunity to experience the workplace and prepare for the future. Leveraging workplace experiences as part of the developmental process can create powerful learning experiences and educational or training program attachments for youth and young adults.

Work-Based Learning activities engage the employer as both a customer and a partner, providing developmental experiences for youth and young adults in the workplace while helping to build the future workforce. These experiences augment school-based and classroom or workshop activities, offer the opportunity to learn about potential careers and to practice and demonstrate professional and defined work-readiness skills.

This guide has been developed to address the need to provide a range of high-quality opportunities to youth and young adults engaged in the Learn & Earn Program and to help these programs and their employer and community partners deliver educationally rich and authentic Work-Based Learning experiences to youth and young adults.

Work-Based Learning Quality Standards

Quality Work-Based Learning is:

  • Designed to promote enhanced learning, skill development and workplace awareness
  • Structured to be effective, safe, legal and measurable
  • Supported by appropriate planning, tailored training and efficient processes
  • Connected to classroom learning, individual career development plans and sequenced education, training and workplace activities

Quality Work-Based Learning is designed to promote enhanced learning, skill development and workplace awareness.

Work-Based Learning supports and enhances classroom instruction or workshop activities by providing a context for learning. It provides unique opportunities to practice and demonstrate new skills, and assists in the development of workplace awareness. It helps build the skills required for specific occupations by exposing youth and young adults to the multiple career options available in a particular industry. Work-Based Learning engages youth and young adults in their own learning and provides multiple opportunities for reflection on the experience, both verbally and in writing.

Quality Work-Based Learning is structured to be effective, safe, legal, and measurable.

Work-Based Learning provides authentic and relevant learning and doing experiences that are safe, legal and in compliance with state, federal and local regulations. Learning objectives are met through ongoing assessment and continuous improvement activities. Systems are in place to support instructors and program staff in designing and implementing quality WBL experiences and to make it easy for employer and community partners to participate.

Quality Work-Based Learning is supported by appropriate planning, tailored training and efficient processes.

Work-Based Learning has defined services and procedures to manage expectations and foster communication among all partners. Youth and young adults are served through individualized Work-Based Learning plans defined for each experience and are sufficiently prepared and supported throughout the experience. Part of this preparation is providing appropriate safety and health training for young workers and helping them understand their rights and responsibilities as employees. Employers and community partners receive support and appropriate training, and program staff are trained in how to design and deliver high-quality experiences.

Quality Work-Based Learning is connected to classroom learning, individual career development plans and sequenced education, training and workplace activities.

Work-Based Learning supports a community-wide vision and collective expectations for both academic and occupational learning. Experiences are designed to directly support academic and occupational learning and provide a planned sequence of experiences that links academic and occupational concepts to real-world application. Youth and young adults are guided and supported by an individualized career development plan, through which Work-Based Learning activities are sequenced and connected to the next step.

New York City Youth and Young Adult Career Pathways