Students enter our work-based learning program for a variety of reasons, but ultimately it is to gain the ability to transition into the next chapter of their lives: adulthood. Work-based learning allows for deep, meaningful training and educational moments to take place in the real world, but with a safety net. It takes theory, which can be taught and explored in the traditional classroom, and turns it into reality.
Work-based learning not only allows for students to gain real-world experience and develop meaningful and transitional work skills, it also allows students to transition to becoming a contributing citizen. All of this not only benefits the students, but it also benefits the schools, businesses, and surrounding community overall. Schools benefit by enriching the depth of a student’s education to go beyond their brick and mortar. Schools also are able to provide a larger variety of what success and education can look like for all students. Businesses benefit because they can develop a connection to the next generation and impact the skills that generation develops through their adolescent years. Communities benefit from the increased connection each party has to invest in tomorrow’s talent.
Employability skills as foundation
Students are thirsty for real-world knowledge and the ability to see the “why” in what they are learning. Through work-based learning, they gain solid employability skills that catapult them into being able to learn advanced technical skills that will help advance them on their career pathways. The foundation of a strong, quality and impactful work-based learning program is the ability to assess, track, and show growth in a variety of skills. However, employability skills take precedence before all others. These are the foundation for a student’s ability to grow and develop high-level skills and are crucial for students’ long-term success.
All parties involved in work-based learning programs need to work to understand how both employability and technical skills are assessed, tracked, and measured on a consistent basis. The ability to provide transparency between education and business is a hurdle that is difficult for either of those entities to undertake on their own, but for success in the development of a strong work-based learning program, it is crucial. Through the GPS Education Partners (GPSEd) program, we have worked hard to develop transferable, transparent, and simplified processes and strategies that allow for student success in a variety of work-based learning programs.
Full spectrum of opportunities
Work-based learning can take many forms, from Job Research/Shadowing to full Registered Apprenticeships, but our students see the full spectrum of what work-based learning is. GPSEd has provided programs that range from career awareness (learning about opportunities that align to your interest) to career development (aligning a program of study at a technical program with on the job training with a company your senior year of high school).
Students of GPSEd’s manufacturing youth apprenticeship program journey through the exploration, experience, preparation and, for some, even the development stages of the work-based learning continuum. When a student engages in a range of work-based learning activities, it allows them to clearly begin to define and focus on a specific career pathway beyond entry-level hire. Through our ability to customize and map each work-based learning phase, students are able to explore different skills and potential careers.
Students thrive in these settings because of the variety of work and professionals they have access to as mentors. Through quality and well-defined work-based learning programming, students are able to develop a better understanding of themselves and what career they would like to pursue. All this occurs while also gaining solid employability skills and the opportunity to begin advancing their skills that align with their chosen career pathway.
Creating clear career pathways
Graduation is not the goal, but a milestone that is marked on a student’s well-defined career pathway plan. Through GPSEd programming, students have the ability to leave with more than a written plan. Like traditional high school, GPSEd students are also required to develop a career plan so they have a clear pathway to prosperity. They also gain substantial work experience, with solid and vetted employability skills, by earning the GPSEd Employability Certification. This certification is supported by evidence of the student’s knowledge and on-the-job assessment of those skills by their skills coaches. GPSEd students also earn industry-recognized certifications, and a three-year and five-year plan for how to continue on a career pathway.
Work-based learning through the GPSEd program exemplifies the “why” for students, but even more valuable is that our program helps to specifically engineer and design the who, what, where and when for each student and business partner.