A Guide to Placing Learners on Work Experience

G. Denny
S. Reid
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Workbase: New Zealand Centre for Workplace Literacy Development
Publication Year
Resource Type
Instructional Material
Number of Pages
Product Type

Looking for a new way to partner with employers to provide students with authentic learning experiences in the workplace? This manual provides helpful information and tools for developing and implementing unpaid work experiences for learners enrolled in basic skills programs. Although developed in New Zealand, it can be adapted for other countries, locations, or systems.

The manual provides background steps to set policy, key strategic issues to consider, benefits of work experience, and procedures and numerous tools for program implementation. The authors discuss nine key areas:

  1. Staff roles, recruitment, induction, and professional development;
  2. Resources—identifying existing and developing new;
  3. Employer engagement—Initial meetings, developing agreements;
  4. Curriculum—modules;
  5. Analyzing literacy tasks and skills of a workplace role;
  6. Learner preparation—expectations, goals, learning plans;
  7. Learner placement and induction;
  8. Monitoring and recording progress;
  9. Evaluation—employers, course, learners.

The model proposed in this guide differs from similar programs that are provided for incumbent workers. This model helps pre-employed or unemployed learners to validate their education plans and career goals; or they may decide to change direction into other jobs or industry clusters. The tools provided in the guide encourage such self-reflection throughout the course of the work experience.

Required Training

Basic skill programs that decide to develop a work experience component will need to complete considerable work upfront such as identifying employers, formalizing the program/employer agreement and partnership, and clearly defining expected outcomes. To fully and successfully implement such a program requires considerable development time, administrative skills, and professional development.

What the experts say

This is a valuable resource for adult basic education and workforce development programs that want to provide participants with work experience in an actual workplace. Too often these work experiences are of limited value because adequate effort hasn’t gone into (a) carefully matching the worksite with the participant’s job interests or readiness, or (b) preparing both the participant and the employer. This manual reinforces the idea that developing such experiences is both very important and requires real work by professionals who approach their work in a systematic, well organized way.

The manual makes heavy use of bulleted lists and diagrams. It is user-friendly and well organized making it easy for users to locate specific tools. Detailed procedures and activities are provided for each phase of a program. Some users may need to learn a few new words of New Zealand terminology, but those who have tried to implement relevant work experience will likely find this guide to be very useful. Hats off to the New Zealand team which has developed this useful resource for our field.

Research Citation:

Hart-Landesberg,S; Braunger, J; & Reder, S. (1992). Learning the ropes: The social construction of work-based learning. Berkeley, CA: National Center for Research in Vocational Education.