This paper is a guide for how governors can lead the way on expanding work-based learning opportunities as part of a pathway to career advancement for youth and young adults.
States increasingly need a more highly skilled workforce to meet the requirements of businesses, keep up with a rapidly changing economy and accelerate growth that leads to economic opportunity for workers and families. Changes spurred by technology, globalization and shifts in population demographics and geographic distribution demand adaptable strategies for preparing the nation’s labor force. Economic forecasts have consistently predicted that the workforce of the future will require higher rates of postsecondary education, especially in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, than exist in today’s workforce.
Governors and other state leaders are creating an ecosystem that supports both businesses seeking skilled workers and individuals seeking new or better employment. They recognize that their role is to bring together education, workforce and economic development as talent pipeline partners to better equip workers with skills businesses need. Governors are ideally positioned to champion these partnerships, and many have already taken steps to do that.
Work-based learning approaches have emerged from these partnerships as a promising strategy to address the mismatch between employer needs and the skill levels of available workers. These approaches connect work experiences that are of value and relevant to the sponsoring employer partners’ workforce needs—also known as authentic work experiences—with structured learning activities. The goal of work-based learning is to reinforce practical and theoretical concepts, thus better preparing trainees for the realities of the workplace while meeting the needs of businesses.
Governors can create supportive environments for talent pipeline partners to develop, strengthen and increase the number of high-quality work-based learning opportunities by embedding work-based learning approaches into state education and workforce systems. They play a leading role in overcoming barriers to the scaling process, including limited understanding of the concept, outcomes and resources that support these programs. This paper is a guide for how governors can lead the way on expanding workbased learning opportunities as part of a pathway to career advancement for youth and young adults.
The information and state quotes presented in this paper are drawn from the experiences of six states that participated in a National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) policy academy on scaling high-quality work-based
learning. Indiana, Iowa, Montana, New Hampshire, Utah and Washington participated in the policy academy between January 2016 and June 2017. This paper expands on the 2016 NGA Center paper State Strategies to Scale Quality Work-Based Learning, using more recent interactions and data from states.