In a 2016 paper by National Skills Coalition and National Youth Employment Coalition finds that well-designed work-based learning opportunities can provide youth with occupational and work readiness training while providing income support for disconnected and at-risk youth. The paper examines four different work-based learning strategies, illustrates key elements of success, identifies challenges, and makes policy recommendations to address those challenges.
Through conversations with youth intermediaries and employers, community-based organizations running youth programming, and youth participants, we concluded that work-based learning programs should provide the following elements to ensure success for both the participant in the program and the business for which they work:
- Paid work-based learning opportunities, with wages provided either through employer, provider, or combination of the two: By combining paid work with academic instruction, work-based learning makes it easier for youth participants to support themselves and their families while gaining skills and credentials that can translate into longer-term career advancement.
- Strong partnerships with business and other community stakeholders: To realize the benefits from WBL, business partners must be engaged throughout the process of starting and running a program. The most successful programs also rely on partnerships with other stakeholders to deliver key educational or support services.
- Positive youth development and continued support services: Work-based learning requires significant investments in wages, education, and necessary partnerships among a variety of stakeholders. WBL may be even more expensive to deliver to youth participants because they often need more intense support services for a longer period of time than adults need in order to succeed
- Linkages to career pathways either through future employment opportunities or future education and training opportunities: Work-based learning can expose youth to different career opportunities, help them build work experience and a work history, increase understanding of the application of classroom learning on the jobsite, and connect them with adult mentors successfully working in their chosen industry.
While a number of youth serving organizations successfully provide work-based learning opportunities for youth, federal policy must better support these practices across the country to maximize the impact on our youth and our business capacity. NSC and NYEC recommend the following policy changes to better align the youth workforce development system with the needs of youth and business in their communities:
- Congress should increase funding for youth workforce development activities that facilitate WBL;
- The Administration should invest in intermediaries that facilitate expansion of work-based learning for youth;
- Congress should expand financial incentives to businesses participating in work-based learning; and
- Department of Labor should issue additional guidance for the workforce development system on working with employers hiring with out-of-school youth and at-risk youth.