Work-Based Learning

Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs provide youth and young adults the academic and technical skills needed to become more employable. For high school youth especially, employment connected to their career goals and aspirations can offer additional learning opportunities outside of formal schooling that broaden their networks and help them develop positive relationships with adults (Ross & Svajlenka, 2016). Moreover, for many low-income, high school youth, obtaining employment is not optional; it is vital to supplementing family income and also financially planning for college (College Board, 2016). Students who participate in high-quality CTE programs graduate from high school at higher rates, are more likely to attend college, and in the long term earn higher wages than students who do not participate (Association for Career and Technical Education, 2016). At postsecondary level retention and achievement within postsecondary CTE programs in Illinois has increased significantly, illustrating growing interest and dedication among students eager to be part of a skilled workforce (Illinois Community College Board, 2014).

Work-based learning integrates the academic and occupational training that is central to CTE and through which students have the ability to gain high-wage, high-skilled occupational experience while pursuing postsecondary credentials (Bragg, Dresser, & Smith, 2012; Holzer & Lerman, 2014; Rayborn, 2015). Work-based learning reinforces the relevancy and authenticity of the learning experiences for students, engaging learners who prefer applied learning environments (Lerman, 2010). Moreover, work-based learning has been found to increase students’ persistence, graduation, and employment rates, with notable gains for students from underserved racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds (Holzer & Lerman, 2014; Kuh, 2008; Lerman, 2010).

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