Work-Based Learning: A Continuum of Workforce Development

This week is Apprenticeship Week in Tennessee, in conjunction with the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s National Apprenticeship Week (NAW). To celebrate, the department is highlighting multiple work-based learning activities from around our state. Combining multiple work-based learning experiences across grades ensures that students have the opportunity to develop the technical and employability skills required for success in their future careers. Tennessee is home to over 900 apprenticeship opportunities across the state, which represents one form of work-based learning (WBL).

wblWBL experiences offer students the opportunity to explore career options and develop critical academic, technical, and employability skills with guidance from industry partners either in a school setting or in a business setting. Work-based learning is most impactful when implemented along a K-12 continuum, beginning with career awareness and exploration activities in elementary school and progressing through more intensive capstone experiences such as cooperative education (co-op), internships, or apprenticeships.

28711451846_5ff7ee084c_zWBL experiences in the early grades help students develop a broad understanding and awareness of industries and possible careers that are available in their region. Activities such as the “Amazing Shake” offer an amazing opportunity for industry to develop and practice employability skills at early ages.

WBL experiences in middle grades narrow in focus as students explore careers of interest, learn about the type of postsecondary education necessary for success, and begin practicing the academic, technical, and employability skills necessary for success in their identified careers. Rutherford County Schools, with leadership from its Manufacturing Leadership Council, organized a countywide career day. This opportunity not only engaged students and industry, it allowed employers to build their brand awareness and demonstrate their craft with students prior to a student selecting their high school program of study.

28638055772_88dfd37399_zIndustry partners who collaborate with schools to provide WBL experiences save time and money by investing early in the development of local talent and the identification and recruitment of future employees. Industry partners also benefit from increased brand awareness among students, allowing for the opportunity to identify and select talent ahead of their competitors. Lastly, industry partners have the opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge most relevant to their needs in their future talent pool. This provides a win-win opportunity for industries and participants and can be the perfect prerequisite for an apprenticeship program.

To learn more about the work-based learning in Tennessee, please contact