High quality WBL opportunities require planning and are
carried out by trained and qualified individuals either based
at the school or working on behalf of the school through an
intermediary organization in the community. In Vermont there
are people serving as WBL coordinators who function in a
number of different capacities. For example within middle and
high schools and career and technical centers there are
certified co-op coordinators, school-to-work coordinators,
special educators, career class instructors, guidance staff,
service learning coordinators and others who may serve this
function. Partner non-profits or human service agencies may
employ career development staff, employment specialists, job
placement or internship coordinators and the like. Whoever is
responsible for helping to support students and employers
with setting up quality learning experiences in the community
should in any case be well prepared to make these experiences
successful and safe. This manual serves as a guiding
framework for defining not only the roles and
responsibilities of the coordinator, but also the
elements of quality program planning and implementation.
WBL COORDINATOR ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
These services may include:
- Promoting work-based learning;
- Orienting students, parents/guardians, and employers;
- Working with students to develop measurable learning
goals and objectives that connect their experience to
- Conducting or arranging classroom activities related to
pre-employment skills, work readiness and job search
- Counseling students about jobs and careers;
- Assisting students with questions and forms relating to
- Developing job sites and work-based learning
- Matching students with employers;
- Providing basic safety training as appropriate to the
- Assessing student performance at school and at the work
- Conducting on-site employer visits to monitor and
evaluate student progress;
- Maintaining professional relationships with employers;
- Taking disciplinary action when necessary in relation
to classroom activities or work site placements;
- Attending professionally related trainings and
- Completing records and forms.
School district policy may require a Criminal Background
Check be completed on any person who directly works or
volunteers with youth. Consult with school administrators
regarding this issue. This may apply to a variety of WBL
Planning should be built on best practices and take
advantage of programs with a track record of
success. If your district is already doing
community service work, start there. If co-op career and
technical education is already working, expand from that
point. To find out what is already in place, districts can
survey and then compile a simple database of work-based
learning opportunities, staff responsible, employers
engaged, and students involved. Often there are more
work-based learning opportunities going on than most people
realize. By starting with an accurate picture of your
baseline, you will have completed the first step in the
development and implementation of a high quality,
Planning is essential in creating good work-based
learning opportunities. Successful planning
discussions often begin with these two questions: "Why are
we doing this?" and "How will work-based learning help
students meet academic standards and acquire 21st century
skills". One answer is that work-based learning is a
wonderful opportunity for schools to involve the whole
community in the exciting task of effectively preparing all
students for career and college success. Communities can
help schools expand the walls of their classrooms to enable
students to access high-quality applied learning
environments that support deep and connected learning.
It can be very helpful to develop a local advisory team
responsible for planning and implementing work-based
learning. Consider establishing an advisory team,
comprised of committed individuals from business, labor,
community agencies, legal and other professional fields,
parents, students and teachers, to assist with planning and
implementing WBL. Broad representation from the community
can make the difference between success and failure.
Ask your regional workforce partnership or other
organizations committed to helping youth prepare for
adulthood for assistance and support. Give members real
tasks and responsibilities. Empower this team with the
authority and resources to develop a vision and make it a
Become knowledgeable about what others are doing.
Gather information about successful work-based learning
opportunities and observe good practices in action; then
incorporate what you can into your own plans and
activities. Collaborate with other schools or districts in
your region. Be open and willing to share both successes
and missed opportunities. Although it is important that
districts develop materials that meet their own needs, it
is also important to recognize the value of standardizing
procedures and forms. Standardization minimizes confusion
and maximizes consistency, especially with work sites that
participate in work-based learning with several educational
Classroom Activities: Supporting Work-Based
Successful work-based learning activities enable students
to explore their career interests and develop new skills.
The following tools may help students in this process:
Learning objectives are an essential part of a work-based
activity and include the specific skills to be learned on
the job and in the classroom. The objectives to be achieved
through a WBL experience should be mutually developed by
the coordinator, the student, and the employer. Learning
- Individualize each student's objectives based on
his/her educational and career goals and interests;
- Outline each student's tasks, duties and
- Make these specific, achievable, and measurable.
Connecting WBL to the Classroom
The work-based learning coordinator collaborates with
classroom teachers to facilitate connections between
students' work-based learning experiences and their
classroom work and assignments. The coordinator may:
- Meet with teachers to discuss what they see as the
connections between classroom learning and work site
- Develop joint activities that enhance learning in both
the classroom and the workplace.
Seminars can provide students with the opportunity to gain
insights into the culture and environment of work,
reinforce the connections between classroom content and
work related learning, and discuss common job-related
experiences. Seminars may include:
- Peer interaction and discussion of job-related concerns
- Opportunities to share successful experiences from the
- Projects that provide students the opportunity to
gather, evaluate and report information, both individually
and in teams;
- Interactive media presentations and accessing on-line
- Assignments that include keeping journals, preparing
research papers, or developing a personal portfolio;
- Guest speakers and panels who provide additional
opportunities for students to question and interact with
SETTING UP WORK-BASED LEARNING SITES
Developing appropriate work site placements for students is
critical to the success of each work-based learning activity.
- Gather as much information about potential employers as
you can through personal contacts and professional
- Network with your friends and co-workers and ask for
contacts within the organizations.
- Utilize on-line employer listings and directories.
- Connect with other organizations and agencies.
Personnel in organizations such as the Department of Labor,
the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, youth services
agencies, and other community-based organizations have
experience in working with employers in your area. Ask them
if they can identify employers willing to host students.
- Contact local business organizations such as chambers
of commerce, trade associations, Rotary clubs, and others.
Have Effective and Consistent
Effective communication is the foundation for developing
and maintaining work-based learning sites. Most employers
will prefer to have a single point of contact to maintain
and develop a relationship with schools.
- Call employers. It is always best to have the name of
an individual within a company to call. If you don't have a
name, ask for the name of the person who might be
responsible for this type of activity. You may be
referred to the human resources or personnel department,
especially in large organizations.
- Prepare a phone conversation script that has all the
information you'll need to give an employer. Introduce
yourself and ask for some time to discuss work-based
learning opportunities. Explain your needs clearly and
concisely. Emphasize the benefits of participation. When
preparing your script, pretend that you are the employer.
What would you want to know first? (e.g., liability? time
commitment? paperwork? costs?) What would make you listen
to what you have to say (e.g., concern for the well-being
of young people; benefits for the company)? Solicit
questions and immediate concerns from the employer. If
possible, set up a meeting time for further discussion.
- Confirm arrangements by e-mail or phone call.
- Meet the work site staff in person.
- Bring written material. Some suggestions: business
cards, fliers, letters of introduction, brochures,
agreement forms, newsletters, annual reports.
- Practice professionalism. When meeting with the
employer, follow the same interview guidelines you teach
your students. Know your material. Listen well. Utilize
good communication skills. Respect the employer's time.
Wear dress appropriate to that workplace.
- Conduct the meeting in a place where interruptions are
minimal. Give a brief explanation of your needs. Include
information about the type and age of students involved.
Use the meeting to learn about the work site and the
industry. Do more listening than talking. Allow time for
questions from both sides.
- Emphasize the benefits of participation. Benefits can
fulfill needs or solve problems. Potential benefits for
employers depend on the type of activity in which they
participate. Some possible benefits to employers include
access to motivated part-time personnel, reduction in
training costs, opportunities to observe possible
candidates for full-time jobs, and the satisfaction of
knowing that they are taking an active role in improving
- Get the commitment. Specifically ask for what you
want—participation and support. Be honest and clear about
your expectations. Employers do not like surprises.
- Prepare and sign written agreements where applicable.
Make sure that all involved parties understand work-based
learning expectations and responsibilities. Employers
appreciate having things spelled out. Longer term work
experiences (e.g. internships, co-op placements) require
formal training agreements signed by all parties. Less
formal experiences (job shadows) can use simple checklists
- Provide written material that spells out employer
responsibilities. Thank the employer in writing for
agreeing to participate and outline his/her roles and
Connect Students With Work Sites
- Establish an application process for the purpose of
matching. This process will help the work-based learning
coordinator learn about the student and make appropriate
matches with work sites to ensure that the work-based
learning experience addresses the student's interests,
needs, strengths, and goals.
- Match participants with work sites. Site supervisors
will want to participate in the selection of the students
they will be working with, especially if they are providing
a paid work-based learning experience. They will want to
select individuals who are compatible with their staff and
work activities. Arrange student interviews with site
supervisors and allow them to select, whenever possible,
the students to be placed in their work sites. Have
students prepare resumes, applications, and cover letters.
Employers may request these materials prior to or during an
- Call or visit with the student's site supervisor. The
amount of contact depends upon the type of activity. For
activities that last less than a day, like job shadows or
observations, a follow-up call or e-mail is
usually appropriate. Longer activities such as
cooperative education placements, internships, and student
apprenticeships require ongoing contact between school and
work site staff.
- Use follow-up contacts to check on a range of issues.
Discuss student participation and progress to concerns or
problems. Ask informal, open ended questions to help elicit
information from the site supervisor about the experience.
- Provide an evaluation form to be completed by the site
supervisor. Evaluation forms should focus on the student's
participation as well as the employer's impression of the
activity and how it could be improved. The student's
evaluation can be included in his/her portfolio or as part
of a written report.
Sustaining Employer Relationships
- Have the student(s) send a thank you note to the
employer. Encourage students to personalize their notes by
highlighting at least one thing that they learned or
enjoyed during the experience. Suggest that students ask
permission to use the employer as a reference.
- Send a thank you note from the school as well. We all
like to know that we are appreciated. Keep small note cards
and envelopes on hand. A short, personal, handwritten note
is often more valued than a formal letter or e-mail.
Other Ways to Say Thanks
- Give certificates of appreciation.
- Conduct award or recognition ceremonies.
- Highlight the employer's participation in an article in
newsletters or local papers.
- Give small, inexpensive gifts such as pens or note pads
with the school name.
Staying in touch
- Create an employer database. Document all employers and
the activities in which they've participated for future
reference. Maintain a mailing list of organizations that
are active in work-based learning. This database should
also include the names of individual students who have
worked with each organization. Recalling the experiences of
past participants can be helpful when placing new students.
- Stay in touch with employers. They'll be more inclined
to work with you if you have a good, ongoing
- Reflection. Take time to reflect on your site
development process. Identify strengths and weaknesses in
your presentation and make adjustments as necessary. Ask
employers for input on how marketing efforts could be
improved. Focus on streamlining the site development
process for the benefit of everyone involved.
ASSESS STUDENT LEARNING
Student progress and performance are measured by the degree
to which students meet the learning objectives outlined in
their personal learning plan. The assessment process should
document student learning, identify strengths and
weaknesses, and provide strategies for improvement. Various
tools used in assessment include portfolios,
supervisor or employer evaluations, performance
demonstrations at the work site, student self-evaluations,
and coordinator/instructor evaluations. If credit is
awarded, the assessment process may also provide a basis
Students find it useful to document their experiences,
skills, and accomplishments. A student portfolio containing
this information can serve as an ongoing assessment tool as
well as a "living" transcript.
Work-based learning portfolios may
- Reflective journals;
- Work samples;
- Research projects;
- Learning logs;
- Activity summaries; and
- Culminating project or other performance assessment
Evaluation of progress and review of student objectives may
be accomplished through regular visits by the
coordinator/instructor to the work site and conferences
with the student's employer/supervisor.
The following guidelines help make visits more
- Set up a visit in advance with the employer.
- Have a systematic and organized plan for the visit;
develop questions ahead of time.
- Arrange periodically for the student, the employer, and
the coordinator/teacher to meet together to discuss the
- Discuss the needs of the student and those of the
- Discuss student progress, as well as any appropriate
changes in the employment situation or related instruction.
- Let employers know that they can request a confidential
Record keeping is necessary to:
- Gather information for assessing and placing students;
- Provide a basis for student grades;
- Assist with goal setting and portfolio development;
- Provide information or statistics to those involved in
- Document authorizations or expenditures; and
- Document employer participation.
Software programs are available to make it easier to
computerize these records, generate comparative data, and
produce a variety of reports. Seek out programs designed
specifically for work-based learning or job placement.
Check with district technical support staff to determine
which programs are appropriate. It is important that forms
are approved by the appropriate school personnel to ensure
compliance with applicable laws and regulations. The types
of forms necessary will vary based on local needs.
Successful work-based learning opportunities require on-going
review and evaluation. A well-planned evaluation will provide
the opportunity to analyze results that will be useful for
making changes or improvements in the program. A detailed
description of program evaluation can be found in the
Evaluation section of the WBL Manual.
Jay Ramsey at firstname.lastname@example.org or (802) 479-1343