Work-based learning programs are educational tracks that provide direct exposure and experience to a career path. These programs offer a valuable look at a career path for anyone considering their career options, and they offer experience and networking that would otherwise be unavailable. The more common types of programs include internships, co-ops, and pre-apprenticeship programs. Here’s a quick primer on the difference between these programs:
- Internships – An internship is a temporary position with an emphasis on on-the-job training rather than merely employment, and it can be paid or unpaid.
- Co-ops – Cooperative education programs establish and maintain strong collaborations (partnerships, associations) between secondary education and key members of industry.
- Pre-apprenticeship – Pre-Apprenticeship programs are designed to prepare students or professionals before they apply for an Apprenticeship. An Apprenticeship is a combination of on-the-job training (OJT) and related classroom instruction under the supervision of a journey-level craft person or trade professional.
Programs like internships, co-ops and pre-apprenticeships are vital for a stable economy and student opportunities, and, they can also bring significant value to employers.
These programs are critical for the economy and job climate at large because they bridge the skills gap that consistently threatens the employment rate. Programs that actively educate job seekers automatically create more qualified candidates for a variety of positions, which in turn increases the number of qualified applicants, providing a sustainable solution to the skills gap.
Students who participate and may not have the background initially needed will gain the education and experience necessary to bridge their own skills gaps, while learning and growing within a program. In fact, according to a recent study by the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education, “…begun in the early 90s, the Wisconsin youth apprenticeship program is now the largest apprenticeship opportunity for high school students in the United States. It is a two-year program in which high school juniors and seniors participate in work-based learning and related courses, often earning college credits. According to the University of Wisconsin’s Center on Education and Work, over 75% of participating students enroll in postsecondary education, with more than a 60% completion rate. Furthermore, almost all participating employers say they would recommend it to others.”
For employers, these programs offer a valuable training opportunity, as well as the chance to ingratiate an eager student or future candidate with your own company culture so that their participation can become a long-term investment. Many large companies establish their own internship programs in an effort to bring talented young people into their company while offering onboarding training both in respect to their specific or specialized roles and the company at large.
In the state of Kentucky, apprenticeships offer hands-on job training paired with classroom learning. In highly specialized areas such as IT, healthcare, construction, and public utilities, aspiring professionals can now get on-the-job training and foundational learning both in and out of the classroom. According to the Kentucky Labor Cabinet, “Apprenticeship is a training system that produces highly skilled workers who are able to meet the demands of employers who are competing in a highly competitive environment.” And, with the economy and job creation on the rise, the talent landscape is going to become increasingly competitive. So, what better way to attract the talent you need than to engage with them at young age by providing constructive training and development through work-based learning programs? Seems like a no-brainer to us.
In fact, several other states are also taking similar steps to invest in their youth.
In the state of Washington, programs such as “Year Up” target lower income candidates and pair them with mentors, training and internships in an effort to close the gap between aspiring professionals and job demand. The state of Washington, much like Kentucky, also offers listings of ongoing apprenticeship programs. In Vermont, organizations are seeking to create numerous partnerships with key stakeholders in a variety of industries through programs all geared at experiential, work-based learning. These opportunities for young job seekers include internships, job shadowing, work experience, student apprenticeship, and more.
Across the board, organizations at the state level are finding that these types of programs are beneficial not only for the student and employer, but also for the economy.