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DOING

A wide variety of employers and education and training partnerships can implement work-based learning and they can do so for a wide variety of occupations.

Jobs to Careers projects implemented work-based learning in five areas:

  • Building Basic Skills: Many low-wage, low-skilled workers need to improve their basic skills before they can improve their work-related skills and take college-level courses. Work-based learning accomplishes this efficiently, developing the needed skills at the workplace and, in many cases, using work as part of the educational process.
  • Assessing Mastery of Competency:  A key element of work-based learning is the assessment of each employee’s job competencies. In Jobs to Careers, community colleges and other education providers used work to help assess the mastery of competencies related to specified learning objectives. Assessment is critical to the award of academic credit by education providers.
  • Coaching, Mentoring, and Supervisory Involvement:  Supervisors and other key workplace leaders must support work-based learning and, optimally, be closely involved in it. In Jobs to Careers, they: recommended staff for the program; released participants from job responsibilities to engage in learning activities; provided instruction in technical skills; coached participants on career development and job-related and interpersonal skills; and mentored participants through the learning process. Some education partners certified supervisors as adjunct faculty. Almost all employers used workshops, manuals, or other  formal training methods to prepare coaches and mentors for their roles.
  • Instructional Strategies:  Innovative instructional strategies used in Jobs to Careers can serve as models for work-based learning programs. Such programs require substantially different instructional strategies than does traditional education and training.
  • Critical Thinking and Reflection:  These two basic skills are key to work-based learning. Jobs to Careers fostered critical thinking, which supports educational development and enhances job performance, through group and individual processes. “Learning circles” are a group approach to promoting critical thinking. Through reflection, workers develop this important foundational skill on their own. Encouraging learners to keep a journal promotes reflection.

KEY RESOURCES

A Primer for Work-based Learning: How to Make a Job the Basis for a College Education
This brief describes the process of designing work-based learning for one Jobs to Careers partnership, and then adapting it for a different population and health care setting. This brief is a product of the National Program Office with the Arizona and Portland, Oregon sites.