Our Mission

Empowerment Through Education


Work-based Learning


Work-based Learning What is work-based learning?

Work-based learning programs involve teens in practical experiences that integrate work and learning. They are real-life experiences that are structured, supervised, and evaluated. Successful programs use the experiential learning model-doing real work, reflecting on these experiences, and generalizing to future life situations. The work experiences may be paid or unpaid, but they are clearly viewed by both participants and employers as real work-that is, youth are actively engaged in producing goods or services. The focus of work-based learning is not simply on working for the sake of a having a job, but on an experience that takes into account the developmental needs of youth participants.

Why is work-based learning important?

Many of the skills needed for workforce success develop over time and must be learned through active participation. That is, youth are afforded the opportunity to learn interpersonal skills, cooperation, and teamwork by actually having to work as a team with others in the workplace. Because of their relative inexperience, the potential for youth to contribute to the workplace is often underestimated. However, studies show that work experiences can have a positive impact on both the young people and the businesses or organizations that participate hosting teens as employees in work-based learning programs.

Successful work-based learning programs empower young people to be an active participant in their future by taking control of their own learning and experiences. Given the concerns expressed about the need for young people to develop workforce skills, work-based learning is a good model for engaging teens in meaningful service to the public and developing workplace skills and competencies that they can apply now and in the future.

Benefits of

Work-based Learning

Work-based learning can have a positive impact on the youth participating, the business and organizations that empoy them, and the youth programs. Such work-based learning experiences can create a rich learning environment where participants develop skills in areas such as teamwork, professionalism, and communication. Also, employers are often pleasantly surprised with the contributions youth can make to the workplace. Work-based learning requires commitment on the part of the youth, employers, and youth programs to make the experience the most beneficial to all parties involved.


Learn social norms of the workplace

Make connections between real work expectations and what they learn in school

Pursue education with a greater sense of purpose

Inteact with positive adult role models

Develop new skills

Receive feedback on their skill development

Experience enhanced self-concept and self-esteem

Expand their horizons and awareness of future work options

Work-based Learning EMPLOYERS

Enhance skills of their employees-for example, learning to supervise others

Realize contributions youth can make to the workplace

Give back to the community

Get a chance to have good teen employees


Accomplish their mission

Meet youths’ developmental needs

Retain teens in their programs

Add authenticity and relevance to the learning experiences they provide


All the benefits above for employers and youth programs plus:

Groom potential employees

Challenges of Work-based Learning


May have trouble meeting program and workplace expectations for attendance, dress code, and appropriate language

Have little or no prior experience in the work world

Face logistical challenges such as transportation


•  Must be convinced they will gain from participation

•  May be hesitant to hire youth, fearing they will not be ready for work

•  Differ in their capacity to provide a work experience that is also a learning experience

•  May lack experience in supporting the developmental needs of teens

•  May have to change policies and practices to provide quality work experiences


May be hampered by short time frames for producing program results

Face difficulties in investing the time needed to recruit employers, provide training and support, and monitor program implementation

Have to complete considerable paperwork in order to provide financial incentives, which can be vital for the neediest youth

May encounter policies that require paid staff to be 18 years of age


All of the challenges above for employers and youth programs plus:

May encounter challenges from funders who are resistant to proposals that include paying teens

Must screen teens who will be working directly with younger children in out-of-school-time programs