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Work-Based Learning Before Graduation

Benefits of Required Work-Based Learning


Before Graduating High School
Bryanna Nelson
University of WisconsinRiver Falls

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Work-Based Learning Before Graduation


Abstract
This paper examines the benefits of every student completing at least one form of work-based
learning activity before graduation, positive and negative. It will also analyze the cost it would

take to implement such a program into a school. Finally, it will give recommendations about how
to adopt such a program or other alternatives that can be implemented. It will give a school or
person a large portion of information needed if they wish to start their own work-based learning
program at their school or other institution.
Keywords: work-based learning, graduation, high school, requirement, cost analysis

Work-Based Learning Before Graduation

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Benefits of Required Work-Based Learning


Before Graduating High School
Work-based learning (or WBL) encompasses a huge amount of opportunities that
students could be taking advantage of, including but not limited to: Youth Apprenticeship (1 or 2
Year programs), State Certified Co-op, Employability Skills Certificate Program, Youth
Leadership Skill Certificate Program, Local Co-op, Service Learning, and Job Shadowing. These
activities are intended to prepare the students for the workforce and careers that lie ahead of them
in the future. Easing the bridge between school and work is important because not only does it
make better quality workers, more opportunities for the student, it also gives them an idea of
things they do and do not want to do in the workplace. Work-based learning is in countless
schools across the nation, but it is not in every school.
Benefits of Required Work-Based Learning Prior to Graduation
There are 5 dimensions to work-based learning; location, employer involvement,
intensity of contract, range of skills and compulsory or optional (Clark and Whitelegg. 1998).
Location plays a part in the dimensions because there are several different ways one could
participate in work-based learning whether the student is going to the actual company or whether
the company is coming to the students and teaching them in a classroom. This ties directly into
the next dimension: employer involvement. The employer may also be involved in things like
curriculum design and the curriculum being delivered to the students. They may be only teaching
students things that directly pertain to the company or things that may apply to other companies
in other fields. This leads into the next dimension of intensity of contract. The employer could
allow students to come in for just a day or two for something like a job shadow, or something

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longer and more complex like an apprenticeship. This could be something even as simple as a
guest-speaker coming into a CTE class to give a lecture or demonstration to students interested
in entering a certain field. The range of skills the student is expected of completing is also
important. Some employers have many skills to be learned and others, due to the nature of the
field, they may only be capable of learning a few skills. Lastly, there is the compulsory or
optional component to WBL. Students would either be required to complete a WBL at least once
or possibly more depending on the schools policy, or it would be completely optional.
A work-based learning experience should be required for high school students before they
graduate. It has sometimes been defined as the bringing together of self-knowledge, expertise at
work and formal knowledge (Smart and Ritchie, 2003). A WBL could be completed by doing
something simple like a one-day job shadow, or something more complex, it is all up to the
student. Benefits of work-based learning include, depth of learning, marketability,
flexibility and the lifelong nature of the learning process as beneficial. (Smart and Ritchie,
2003). Work-based learning is also considered to have the potential to bridge the gap
between theory and practice, to ensure that the workforce is fit for practice and purpose,
and to encourage the development of knowledge, critical understanding, practical and
technical skills, professional attitudes and values. As a method it builds on students
existing abilities and can therefore be considered to be empowering (Smart and Ritchie, 2003).
There are many positive benefits to WBL for the students, but there is also a huge benefit for the
employers involved. An article titled Everybody wins? Using the workplace as an arena for
learning stated the benefits to the business involved with work-based learning saw positive
outcomes including, employer learning, organizational learning, enhanced employee

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commitment and motivation and future recruitment (Ogilvie and Homan, 2012). Work-based
learning is not only sees incredible results for students involved but the employer parties as well.
Cost Analysis of Work-Based Learning
Work-based learning, contrary to popular belief does not require as much funding as one
may think. The most a student would have to pay for cost in most situations is on average $10 for
the cost of a work permit. A work permit is needed for students under 18 to hold a job, other than
those in the agriculture field. Students involved in work-based learning for some instances can be
hired for paid positions, but will need certain documents such as hours and wage earnings; a
copy of the employers workers compensation insurance verification; and a statement of
assurance declaring compliance with FLSA and state laws governing working restrictions and
hazardous occupations. The employer and work-based learning coordinator sign this
document. (National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET). 2005).
No, students participating in job shadows and similar work-based learning activities will
not be included in activities that offer paid positions, but they will also will not need a work
permit. These activities are nearly free, only costing the student or school the cost of
transportation. Work-based learning can be very low cost, especially to the school. Most of the
cost does fall on the employers, but majority of the cost, is paying the students wages. Employers
are even allowed to pay less than minimum wage for these students. The cost for the school
would fall under categories like curriculum and safety instruction if the school and workplace
had a symbiotic experience, where the school would provide basic safety and training, and the
employer would provide more specific skill training. Insurance may also play a factor into the
cost of work-based learning, and this will more than likely be the highest cost the schools/

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employer would be subjected to. All in all, work-based learning is something that does not cost
very much to start up, and is extremely beneficial to the students involved.
How to Adopt Work-Based Learning
An important part of work-based learning is first connecting students to reliable
workplaces. To do this, as a teacher wanting to set up a work-based learning program, it is
suggested to make agreements and relationships beforehand, to sift through workplaces that may
not be so favorable. These arraignments made before hand, can also speed up the process and
raise student interest in involvement with work-based learning. Prior to starting work-based
learning, curriculum, making sure all of the federal and state laws can be met, and making
agreements with the principal and board members. When making work-based learning
mandatory, one should ensure that there are also many options available to students. Work-based
learning is about career exploration and giving students one of their first opportunities in the
workplace. Other things to consider when setting up a work-based learning program are things
like insurance coverage, Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Child Labor Laws, Americans with
Disabilities Act, data privacy, equal opportunity, sexual harassment, and Medical, including
things like OSHA standards in the workplace. These all play a huge factor in liabilities involved
in work-place learning and could make or break a program, no matter how good or well
established it is.
Work-based learning, being so vast in nature can be taken one step at a time such as
incorporating things like job shadowing and service learning, and evolve into things like youth
apprenticeship and co-ops, in time as the program gains more momentum and more connections
and relationships are made. When starting a WBL program, it can really be whatever you want it

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Work-Based Learning Before Graduation


to be, in terms of opportunities offered. If it is your first year undertaking such a program, or

even being involved for the first time, don't be afraid to take it slow. Do what you can manage at
first and then slowly bring in more and more opportunities once you feel more comfortable as an
instructor. That is the best thing about WBL, it have such a wide range, that there is something
for everyone, and every student can be involved in a work-based learning program, which can
only positively benefit them for their futures ahead of them.
Conclusion
In conclusion, work-based learning is a fantastic way for students to gain real world
experience of the workplace before they even graduate high school. A high school who goes
through a WBL will have more confidence in the workplace, and will more than likely be more
ambitious in the field they choose. Students may even have a horrible experience at something
like a job shadow, but benefit from it because, they didn't spend hundreds of thousands of dollars
on vet school, and then decide it is not the right path for them. Not only does the student benefit
but it mutually benefits the employer, giving them the ability to build effective workers, gain
knowledge about what students now-a-days know about the workplace, and even find future
employees. Work-based learning programs can be very low cost, depending on the size and
extent of the program of course, but it is very doable. The benefits really outweigh the cost in
these situations. They are also relatively easy to start, and can be as small or large as you want
them to be. If you are comfortable with a small program, so be it! If you want to give the
students all the opportunities under the sun, you can do that too! The best part about work-based
learning truly is all of the opportunities, and range that is has, that every student and even parents
and business can become a part of it.

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Work-Based Learning Before Graduation


References
Chrissy Ogilvie, & Gill Homan. (2012). Everybody wins? Using the workplace as an arena for
learning. Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, 2(2), 102-120.
Clark, G. (1998). Maximising the Benefits from Work-based Learning: The effectiveness of
environmental audits. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 22(3), 325-334.
Essential Tools: Improving Secondary Education and Transition for Youth With Disabilities
[Handbook for Implementing a Comprehensive Work-Based Learning Program
According to the Fair Labor Standards Act]. (2005, February). ICI Publications,
Minneapolis, MN.
Smart, Helen, & Ritchie, Deborah. (2003). A reflection on the proposed Educational provision
for the 'practitioner level' public health/health improvement workforce in Scotland: A
discussion paper on the benefits of work-based learning. (Conference Papers). Health
Education Journal, 62(2), 113.
Work Permits. (n.d.). Retrieved February 19, 2016, from https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/er/
labor_standards_bureau/work_permits.htm