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Work-based Learning

Work-based Learning (WBL) applies academic learning to real-world settings reinforces learning and exposes students to career fields. In addition, WBL contributes to the development of a pipeline of skilled talent and helps Americans enter and advance in careers.

As defined in Perkins, WBL means "sustained interactions with industry or community professionals in real workplace settings, to the extent practicable, or simulated environments at an educational institution that foster in-depth, firsthand engagement with the tasks required in a given career field, that are aligned to curriculum and instruction."

The COVID-19 pandemic reduced the availability of WBL. These impacts have been more pronounced in certain industries, particularly those that have traditionally engaged a youth workforce, in addition to industries that support earn-and-learn educational models like Registered Apprenticeship. WBL is a proven strategy that reinforces academic instruction by giving students opportunities to apply knowledge and skills in real-world situations. WBL also helps young people to generate income, establish future earning potential, and connect with professionals in the labor market.

To respond to the loss of these work-based learning opportunities, states and LEAs may use ESSER funds to:

  • Support new skill-building experiences like internships, cooperative education, pre-apprenticeships, and registered apprenticeship programs that are integrated within school-day instruction and other extended learning models that occur after school or over the summer months. This includes connecting school-sponsored WBL programs with state and regional summer youth employment programs.
  • Facilitate participation in WBL by paying for student transportation or other costs associated with worksite placements, such as tools and uniforms.
  • Hire WBL coordinators to support student and family engagement, employer engagement, and/or to liaise with intermediary organizations that can help to connect communities, schools, employers, and students. Intermediaries could include, for example, entities that organize and convene employers, such as chambers of commerce; nonprofit organizations with established relationships with employers, such as organizations that convene sector partnerships; or institutions of higher education that work closely with employers in implementing their workforce development programs.
  • Identify and implement assistive technology options needed by students with disabilities to participate in WBL opportunities.
  • Develop and expand “virtual” WBL opportunities where work is performed remotely by students in partnership with employers or intermediary organizations.
Career Z Challenge logo

Career Z Challenge
(March 2023 - June 2025)

The purpose of the Career Z Challenge is to create and/or enhance high-quality, WBL opportunities in CTE programs through the expansion of WBL ecosystems. Eligible participants will engage collaborative ecosystems of educators, businesses, industries, workforce professionals, and community stakeholders to provide students interconnected and expansive career development opportunities and experiences across grades 9 - 12.

Career Z Challenge Video


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