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Overcoming Obstacles to Work-Based Learning Posted on August 17, 2016 at 10:31pm

More school districts see the value of Work-Based Learning (WBL), but establishing a WBL system comes with unique challenges.

In response to a request from an educator, our colleague, Rob Atterbury, provided suggestions on how to overcome logistical, legal and coordinating challenges. He offered four steps: 1) get community buy-in, 2) forge alliances, 3) navigate your local laws, and start a business/community advisory board. ConnectEd has used these steps to help build work-based learning systems in multiple school districts.

Get Community Buy-in

Creating a work-based learning (WBL) system for more than a handful of students takes commitment from district, community, business partners, city and county governments, schools and parents. Work with district leadership and community partners to establish a broad-based coalition of people who believe that providing work-based learning experiences is vital to the engagement of and eventual college, career and community success of all students.

Forge Alliances

Communities that take this on find that staffing is key. They hire several full time employer outreach staff, funded through either district, state or local resources. Then they form alliances between key community agencies, local chamber(s) of commerces, economic development councils, workforce development organizations and city or county economic development staff. These alliances coordinate and provide support to schools and teachers working to place students in various work-based learning experiences.

Navigate Local Laws

As for the legal and logistics issues such as “they must be 18”, there are federal and state guidelines that provide students in “internship” opportunities the ability to be insured. There are many ways schools and districts use temporary agencies to provide students with work-site experiences so they are not employees of the company but rather of the temporary agency. Each state is unique and you’ll need to research their laws.

For example, in California we can place student in an unpaid “job shadow” experience for up to 25 hours/semester, unsupervised by a teacher, and the district’s Worker’s Compensation and Liability insurance will cover the students. We have put together a chart of the various kinds of experiences and the legal issues and logistics associated with each.

Start a Business/Community Advisory Board

With the above in place, it makes it much easier to secure transportation and other supports and overcome legal and logistic hurdles. At the school site, we recommend developing a business/community advisory board to support the development of an academy or career pathway.

This group takes a primary role in:

  • Establishing the student learning outcomes expected,
  • Helping the teachers create the kinds of experiences that help students attain these skills and abilities both in school and in the work-place,
  • And provides the direct support for providing the support.

We have seen these advisory boards provide the staffing for employer outreach, provide transportation support, and even clothing when students didn’t have appropriate things to wear. Representatives from the business/community advisory board are often represented in the broad-based coalition meetings.

When educators, industry partners and local agencies see the importance of work-based learning, and join forces, they are better able to overcome logistical, legal and staffing challenges.


On August 25, 2016 at 7:50pm, Erle Hall commented:

The new law AB 2063 has increased the number of hours for job shadow to 40 with permission from the site principal

On August 25, 2016 at 7:51pm, Erle Hall commented:

The new law AB 2063 has increased the number of hours for job shadow to 40 with permission from the site principal

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