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Coaching and mentoring employee learners were pivotal to the success of work-based learning in Jobs to Careers. For any work-based educational program to succeed, there must be buy-in, support, and optimally close involvement in the program by supervisors and other key workplace leaders. In Jobs to Careers, this involvement came in multiple forms: facilitating worker education by recommending staff and releasing them from immediate responsibilities for learning activities; instruction in technical skills or “precepting”; providing coaching in job-related and interpersonal skills, as well as in career development; and serving as mentors to guide workers through the learning process.

In some cases, the educational partner certified supervisors or other experienced workers as adjunct faculty. Supervisors also contributed informally to transforming workplaces into “learning organizations”: supervisors who interact on a regular basis with frontline workers play a critical role in helping workers understand their organizations’ missions and goals.

Supervisor training is critical to the success of Jobs to Careers programs. Work-based learning requires supervisors to interact with education partners and to be involved in the education process. Training designs for supervisors and other mentors varied widely across the diverse workplaces in the Jobs to Careers initiative.

In some cases, education partners certified supervisors as adjunct faculty. In nearly all cases, employers relied on formal training methods, such as workshops and manuals, to prepare coaches, mentors, and preceptors for their roles.


Supervisors in Work-based Learning 

Supervisors Stepping Up: Supporting the Learning of Frontline Workers in Health Care
This practice brief describes supervisors’ critical contributions to Jobs to Careers. It examines the diverse roles they play in the professional development of their employees and how each role can affect program implementation and success. It also demonstrates how Jobs to Careers projects adapted these roles and functions to a wide variety of health care settings, differing in location, scale, complexity, type of care, financing, and organizational structure. The involvement of supervisors in Jobs to Careers falls into three broad and frequently overlapping categories: instrumental; mentor/coach; and preceptor/instructor. 

Instrumental Roles of Supervisors

Supervisors Stepping Up: Supporting the Learning of Frontline Workers in Health Care
Supervisors facilitate implementation of work-based learning, most commonly by providing logistical support (e.g., scheduling) that enables participants to engage in project activities. Austin’s Jobs to Careers project has both clinical and administrative pathways. In the clinical pathway, the role of supervisors at both St. David’s and Seton hospitals is largely instrumental. They have no day-to-day involvement either in the classroom or in work-based learning. Instead, they attend project meetings, arrange the schedules of frontline workers, give general support to nurse educators, and provide encouragement and support to participating frontline workers. Seton clinical managers are also responsible for facilitating the career development of all staff who report to them, including clinical assistants. In January 2009, the nurse manager at one of the St. David’s hospitals began playing a “hybrid role:" both supervisor and work-based learning educator. This has led to a much more comprehensive involvement in the project for her.

Mentor/Coach Roles of Supervisors

Jobs to Careers Career Plan 2-19-0
Mentor Forms: BACH

Coaching and Mentoring PowerPoint
Supervisors guide participants as they apply the knowledge and skills they have acquired in everyday work situations and support their growth in the organization. In some cases, the coaching role extends to helping workers develop career and educational plans. This kind of coach or mentor may also offer specific instruction, but he or she serves a broader function in building a trainee’s confidence, providing feedback, and encouraging individual goal-setting and development. Coaches and mentors assisting students in the Austin and Baltimore Jobs to Careers projects offered supports of this kind. A key tool for goal setting and planning used by both projects is the Individual Development Plan. The Individual Development Plan assists a frontline worker and her or his coach in developing a career plan. The plan addresses each participant’s long-term career and educational goals, identifies the steps to achieving those goals, and notes barriers that may prevent progress. The value of the coaching role becomes clear as the job coach meets with the participant to discuss the IDP. The supervisor/job coach better understands the participant and vice versa. The challenges faced when working full time, attending school, managing a family, and balancing other outside commitments can be overwhelming for anyone, but especially so for frontline workers. Coaching aligned with a systematic plan of action helps workers overcome these challenges and achieve successful personal and professional development. 

Baltimore Project: Coaching frontline workers
A career coach at Good Samaritan Hospital explains her role and responsibilities in supporting career advancement of frontline workers participating in the Baltimore, Maryland project site of Jobs to Careers:


Austin Project: Job coach support of work-based learning
Staff members at St. David's, a hospital involved in the Austin, Texas project site of Jobs to Careers, explain how nurses taking on job coaching duties have helped frontline workers advance to patient care technician (PCT) positions:

Preceptor/Instructor Roles of Supervisors

Virginia Mason Medical Assistant Coach Job Description
The Coach Training Experience at Virginia Mason Medical Center (article) (full newsletter)
MA Coach Training Program Objectives
In a classroom or in a work setting, some supervisors teach participants the practical knowledge and skills they need to perform their jobs successfully. This role is closest to that of the “preceptor” found in many health care settings, such as the education of nurses. It typically involves illustrating concepts and skills through demonstration and modeling and assessing learning through demonstration by the worker and observation. In Seattle, Washington, coaches “function as a teacher and mentor in guiding, directing, and supervising technical medical assistant activities of the MA Trainee [employee learner],” according to this job description.

Jobs to Careers in Community-Based Care
In Portland, Oregon, assisted living facilities appointed staff to implement the curriculum for direct caregivers (resident assistants). The instructors, drawn from the ranks of supervisors, managers, and experienced frontline workers, attended a three-day training to learn employee-training methods and curriculum content.

Supervisory Guide

Work-based Learning Supervisory Guide
In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Temple University Health System created an extensive supervisors’ guide to work-based learning. This guide provides information on how the work-based learning program will be implemented, the role of supervisors in the program, and how they can support students’ success.

Supervisory Agreements

ALFTC Trainer Responsibility Agreement
Formal agreements can help clarify roles and responsibilities in a training and education program. This can be especially important when introducing a new training method such as work-based learning. In Portland, OregonJobs to Careers developed a formal agreement for supervisors who are participating in frontline worker training.

Coach, Mentor, and Supervisor Training 

Hartford Project: Mentoring frontline workers in work-based learning
Workforce Investment Board staff involved in the Hartford, Connecticut project site of Jobs to Careers explains the role of mentors in assessing workplace competencies that frontline workers needed to achieve to advance their careers at area long-term care centers:

SSTAR Workshop for Job Coaches PowerPoint
In Fall River, Massachusetts, the employer partner in Jobs to Careers created a training session for supervisors. This workshop, Skills for Coaching, Precepting, and Work-based Learning, covered the learning plan for Jobs to Careers, critical skills for employee success, coach/preceptor responsibilities, and adult learning theory.

Coaching and Mentoring 1199C PowerPoint
In Philadelphia, Jobs to Careers provided an extensive training course for supervisors that covered the difference between traditional supervision and coaching, identifying learning and supervisory styles, and using coaching skills to support Action Learning Assignments, among other topics.

OCTC Adjunct Boot Camp Brochure
Adjunct Resource Center
In Kentucky, Owensboro Community & Technical College certified supervisors and retired nurses as adjunct faculty. OCTC also developed an online Adjunct Resource Center to train nurses in their new roles as adjunct faculty and provide access to documents, other students and faculty, and professional resources. Running this program as a “boot camp” minimized the amount of time nurses were off the floor in their regular jobs and maximized their learning potential to fill the role as adjunct faculty.

Career Enhancement in Community Based Care for Jobs to Careers Supervisors
In Portland, OregonJobs to Careers developed a training guide to help managers and supervisors understand the career development plan for their workers, learn about the concept of employee coaching, and gain access to professional development resources from Portland Community College. A similar guide helped workers manage their own careers. PCC career professionals from the Gerontology Program conducted workshops geared toward each group, providing them with customized guidebooks. Supervisors learned about career coaching methods and received resource materials they could share with direct care workers, including information on how to navigate the college admissions process and utilize support services.

Working for Health: Supervisors (Fall 2009 issue)
This issue of Working for Health, the newsletter of Jobs to Careers, highlights several strategies for engaging and equipping supervisors as partners. It features ways that employers can engage and motivate supervisors to invest in frontline workers.