Standard 2

STANDARD 2
 

A qualified professional facilitates WBL activities as identified in the Vermont Work Based Learning Guide. 

  • WBL Coordinators complete a Department of Education approved training program.
  • WBL Coordinators have clearly defined job descriptions and high quality supervision.

INDICATOR: WBL Coordinators demonstrate proficiency and understanding of the Vermont Gold Standards for Work Based Learning and WBL Guide.

 
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 academic standards;
  • Conducting or arranging classroom activities related to pre-employment skills, work readiness and job search skills;
  • Counseling students about jobs and careers;
  • Assisting students with questions and forms relating to work;
  • Developing job sites and work-based learning placements;
  • Matching students with employers;
  • Providing basic safety training as appropriate to the placement;
  • Assessing student performance at school and at the work site;
  • 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 conferences;
  • Completing records and forms.
 
 
BACKGROUND CHECKS
 
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 activities.
 
 
PLANNING
 

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, sustainable plan.

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 reality.

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 organizations.

 
 
IMPLEMENTATION
 

Classroom Activities: Supporting Work-Based Learning Experiences
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
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 objectives:

  • Individualize each student's objectives based on his/her educational and career goals and interests;
  • Outline each student's tasks, duties and responsibilities; 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 learning; and
  • Develop joint activities that enhance learning in both the classroom and the workplace.

Classroom Seminars
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 and problems;
  • Opportunities to share successful experiences from the work site;
  • Projects that provide students the opportunity to gather, evaluate and report information, both individually and in teams;
  • Interactive media presentations and accessing on-line information;
  • 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 employers.
 
 
SETTING UP WORK-BASED LEARNING SITES
 
Developing appropriate work site placements for students is critical to the success of each work-based learning activity.
 

Research Employers

  • Gather as much information about potential employers as you can through personal contacts and professional organizations.
  • 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 Communication
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 the community.
  • 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 or outlines.
  • Provide written material that spells out employer responsibilities. Thank the employer in writing for agreeing to participate and outline his/her roles and responsibilities. 

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 interview.

Follow Up

  • 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 relationship. 
  • 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 for grading.

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 include:

  • Reflective journals;
  • Work samples;
  • Research projects;
  • Learning logs;
  • Activity summaries; and
  • Culminating project or other performance assessment summaries.

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 productive:

  • 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 student's progress.
  • Discuss the needs of the student and those of the employer.
  • 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 conference.

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 work-based learning;
  • 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.

 
 
PROGRAM EVALUATION
 
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.  

Questions?

Jay Ramsey at jay.ramsey@state.vt.us or (802) 479-1343

Page Last Updated on December 4, 2014