Posts Tagged ‘co-op’

What Works in Postsecondary Work-Based Learning?

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

Learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom. As the labor market changes and demands for a skilled workforce increase, there is renewed interest in work-based learning (WBL) programs across the country. Earlier this month The Urban Institute released a report on the topic, titled Expanding and Improving Work-Based Learning in Community Colleges. The report draws on national data and interviews with six community colleges and documents what is known about the implementation and outcomes of WBL models in community colleges, what strategies community colleges are adopting to measure WBL, and potential steps to improve measurement and address key challenges in expanding and improving WBL in community colleges. 

At the postsecondary level, WBL consists of opportunities such as apprenticeships, internships and cooperative education (co-op), which provide career preparation and training in a work setting that involves supervision or mentoring and connects to classroom or academic experience. Community colleges are vitally important institutions in preparing learners for the workforce, as they award most of the career-oriented credentials in the country. However measurement of WBL in community college contexts is limited and, as such, we know little about how common WBL programs are in these institutions, what models and approaches work best and for whom, who is able to access opportunities, and what outcomes and impacts they deliver for learners, businesses partners and colleges. 

Findings from the report suggest several challenges facing WBL programs including access, equity and diversity. These challenges are even more pressing given the evidence of positive outcomes for learners who are able to experience WBL. The report found that participants in Registered Apprenticeship programs earn higher wages, are more productive, and are less likely to use public benefit programs compared to comparable workers. 

In order to improve WBL at the community college level, the report recommends strategies for measuring WBL, evaluating progress toward diversity and equity goals, and improving data collection practices. For example Cincinnati State Technical and Community College has an institutional research staff member working in their career center. This person collects and analyzes data that in turn informs career services. The report specifically recommends state education and workforce officials develop state definitions of WBL, develop common data elements for tracking WBL, share employment data with colleges to support performance improvement, and incorporate WBL into the state longitudinal systems of data tracking. 

Community colleges are in a unique position to change the way WBL is experienced across the country. They serve about 12 million diverse learners, many of whom are women or learners of color. This makes these institutions ideal vehicles for closing long-standing equity gaps in the labor market, preparing the workforce, giving students the skills and knowledge for jobs and careers, and partnering with employers to provide the talent they need.

Brian Robinson, Policy Associate

By Brian Robinson in Uncategorized
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