Work-Based Learning: Model Policy Components

This policy brief presents a comprehensive policy approach to providing high-quality work-based learning experiences that prepare participants for postsecondary and workforce success in high-demand occupations.

Jennifer Zinth
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Education Commission of the States
Publication Year
Resource Type
Number of Pages

High-quality, work-based learning opportunities can confer a number of benefits — not only for students, but also for schools, employers, and communities. Because high-quality work-based learning opportunities integrate applicable academic concepts and state standards and evaluate a student’s mastery of key employability skills, students can reap greater benefits from quality work-based learning programs than they can from traditional teen employment opportunities.

In the absence of state policies providing structures and funding for work-based learning programs, there can be disparities in program access from one district to another. Fewer than one-third of states have adopted policies regarding secondary student work-based learning, according to the National Skills Coalition. As of April 2017, 14 states had policies governing pre-apprenticeships and youth apprenticeship programs for high school students, and 11 states had policies governing other secondary student work-based learning.

To ensure wide and equitable access to high-quality work-based learning experiences designed to prepare participants for postsecondary and workforce success in high-demand occupations in their region or state, a comprehensive policy approach should include the following components:

  • Single, clear and statewide definition of various work-based learning experiences.
  • High-quality career awareness and exploration beginning in the elementary and middle grades.
  • Funds to support deployment of all activities at the state, regional, and local levels.
  • Development and dissemination of a state framework for work-based learning.
  • Non-elective graduation credit for approved work-based learning experiences.

Because all five policy areas are interrelated, these components should be viewed as a comprehensive package of policies for state adoption rather than a menu from which states may choose without compromising program availability or quality.

What the experts say

Work-Based Learning Model: Policy Components is an excellent resource for state, regional and local entities looking to outline policy considerations for a work-based learning system that includes adult learners. It is well written, concise, and superiorly organized, making it easy to read and understand.

Current and well-sourced information is provided from the work-based learning field covering multiple scenarios that educators might encounter in building a work-based learning program. The combination of content and concrete examples of collaboration across state, local, employer and charitable organizations make it a must have resource for work-based learning planning and implementation.

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