Describes the high-quality elements and benefits of state work-based learning programs that successfully meet the needs of businesses; and outlines a work-based learning framework and provides examples from states that have taken steps to scale work-based learning.

“Industries in every state are struggling to find qualified applicants for jobs, while job seekers too often find they lack the skills needed to enter or move along a career pathway to a good job. Preparing a workforce that is poised to meet the needs of businesses and ultimately to make the state more economically competitive is a top priority for many governors. Therefore, many of them are exploring ways to scale—increase opportunities for—high-quality, demand-driven work-based learning as a proven way to prepare their citizens for the modern workforce.

While there are examples of high-quality work-based learning in all states, achieving scale has been elusive. The key to sustainable growth and continual improvement of high-quality work-based learning programs is for governors to establish and support ‘talent pipeline’ partnerships—functional workforce, education and industry partnerships focused on aligning education and training with the needs of the economy—and embed these partnerships within existing state systems.


High-quality work-based learning is a continuum of programs that provide work and education experiences to help participants advance along a career pathway. Those programs consist of: a clear agreement between the participant and the sponsoring employer, an authentic work experience, structured learning activities aligned with the work experience and a culminating assessment and recognition of skills. Work-based learning offers significant benefits to participating individuals and employers, and governors can play a key role in bringing work-based learning to scale” (p.1).

“The information presented in this paper is drawn from an experts roundtable convened by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) in September 2015 with a group of researchers and other experts in the field of work-based learning. It also draws on the experiences of the six states participating in an NGA Center policy academy focused on scaling work-based learning programs in high-demand, middle-skills science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers, as well as on the lessons learned from the NGA Center’s technical assistance to grantees under the U.S. Department of Labor’s American Apprenticeship Initiative” (p.2).

The authors present a work-based learning framework and provide examples from states that have taken steps to scale work-based learning. 

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

“The framework [presented in this paper] consists of four components for high-quality, demand-driven work-based learning programs. The program should include a clearly articulated agreement between the employer, participant and education institution or intermediary organization that identifies expectations for each partner and the general structure of the experience. The participant should engage in an authentic work experience linked with a structured learning component to connect theory with practice and workplace skills. The work experience should be supervised and mentored by an industry professional. Lastly, the program should culminate in an assessment and recognition of skills by a third party to ensure that recognition is aligned with the attainment of a credential or progress along a career pathway” (p.3). Examples of steps states have taken to scale work-based learning include: • “Talent pipeline partners in Michigan identified a lack of workers with information technology and advanced manufacturing skills, and [a state agency] was tasked with administering a state-led, apprenticeship-like training program called Michigan Advanced Technician Training…” (p.6). • “In California, Linked Learning is an approach that integrates rigorous academics with workplace experiences for high school students” (p.6). • “Iowa provides state appropriations to encourage Registered Apprenticeship growth through the Iowa Apprenticeship Program” (p.7). • “The Montana Department of Labor & Industry provides curriculum and guidance to licensed teachers who are involved in Jobs for Montana’s Graduates program, which includes instruction of students through project and work-based learning experiences in high schools, middle schools and alternative schools, as well as through out-of-school programs” (p.7). • “Tennessee has developed a framework for high-quality work based learning in the state’s `Work-Based Learning Policy Guide,’ which clearly outlines expectations along with an evaluation and assessment process to ensure that work-based learning experiences are of high quality for the participant” (p.8). “Research has shown that high-quality work-based learning is an effective strategy for equipping the workforce with industry-relevant skills that help individuals advance their careers and strengthening the competitiveness of the state” (p.10). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)