Episode 2

Expanding Work-Based Learning Experiences In The Region

Colleges Expand Work-Based Learning to Prepare Students to Succeed Academically and Thrive in their Future Careers

Strong Workforce Program (SWP) implementation efforts are moving forward through the SWP workgroups,* each of which makes decisions about planning and promising practices related to a specific aspect of SWP. The Work-Based Learning (WBL) and Job Placement workgroup is tasked with facilitating the implementation of WBL and job placement functions that will provide all students with a continuum of critical experiences and support to deepen classroom learning and facilitate employment.



To address its charge, the workgroup established the following four goals:

    1. Assess work-based learning opportunities and 21st century employability skills currently used in San Diego and Imperial Counties community colleges.
    2. Build an infrastructure to support expanded work-based learning opportunities across the region.
    3. Build an infrastructure to support expanded job placement services across the region.
    4. Support professional learning in the area of work-based learning to improve the development and integration of high-quality work-based learning into curriculum.

Assessing WBL and 21st Century Skill Opportunities

To identify how WBL is implemented throughout the region and determine the professional development and support needed by staff and faculty, the workgroup surveyed faculty and conducted an inventory of current WBL opportunities offered and students served. The assessment results show opportunity for expansion of WBL at the colleges within both career and general education.

In addition, as groundwork for expanding WBL in the region, the workgroup developed a shared understanding of WBL culminating with the creation of an infographic. The WBL Infographic explains the what, why, and how of WBL and offers the following shared definition:

Applied and work-based learning allows students to apply classroom content in professional settings while gaining real-world experience. WBL exists on a continuum that reflects the progress of experiences from awareness-building to training. Students often cycle back through the continuum many times throughout college and throughout their career. Faculty play a critical role in ensuring these experiences are embedded into curricu­lum and support learning.

The workgroup also developed a Glossary of Applied and Work-Based Learning Opportunities.

Establishing an Infrastructure for WBL

To build an infrastructure that will support expanded work-based learning opportunities and job placement services in the region, the regional consortium released two Requests for Applications (RFAs) to the colleges. As a result of these RFAs, each of the ten colleges have begun hiring and training their WBL Coordinators who work with faculty to support and expand WBL as well as to support students directly. The Job Placement Case Managers support student job placement at each of the colleges. The goal is to establish and institutionalize work-based learning and job placement functions at each college to deepen classroom learning and facilitate transitions to employment, thereby benefiting both students and the regional economy.

WBL Community of Practice

A key feature of the regional infrastructure is facilitating learning and collaboration across the colleges.  To this end, the Work-Based Learning and Job Placement workgroup members and the Work-Based Learning Coordinator (WBLC) and Job Placement Case Manager (JPCM) from each college have formed a Community of Practice (CoP). This CoP facilitates sharing of best practices and mutual support for WBL implementation. An upcoming Regional WBL Summit on September 20, 2019 will provide further opportunity for faculty and staff to share information about how WBL implementation is helping deepen classroom learning and facilitate employment.


WBL in Action

With the understanding that the 10 community colleges in San Diego and Imperial Counties are in the early stages of implementing Work-Based Learning (WBL) as part of the Strong Workforce Program (SWP) initiative, staff from some of the colleges in the region have agreed to generously share with their colleagues stories of their efforts to expand WBL at their campuses and the lessons learned thus far. This Breakthroughs Episode on WBL will continually be updated with new stories and practices from across the region in the coming months. 

WBL at San Diego Mesa College

Work-Based Learning Coordinators at San Diego Mesa College describe the structure of their WBL team and their support approach for faculty and students. Find out more here.

Key resources from the SWP Resources Library

Find background research, tools, and promising practices on WBL in the resource library.

Work-based learning in linked learning: Definitions, outcomes, and quality criteria – Developed by the Linked Learning Alliance, this document details the continuum of WBL experiences, establishes working definitions of terms, articulates outcomes for students engaging in the experiences, and describes what quality looks like in those experiences across the continuum.

Making Work-Based Learning Work – This report defines work-based learning, discusses the importance of providing work-based learning opportunities for underserved populations, and discusses how it is a critical component of many career pathway frameworks.

Work-Based Learning in California: Opportunities and Models for Expansion – This report gives an in-depth overview of the content and application of work-based learning, drawing on relevant literature, interviews with scholar and practitioners, and 13 site visits to a variety of schools throughout California. It covers the characteristics and benefits of work-based learning, along with descriptions of the elements of high quality implementation.

View additional WBL resources in the library


*Each SWP Workgroup includes a mixed representation of roles, involving more than 150 stakeholders from across the 10 colleges, along with K–12, adult education, and industry partners. Each workgroup is focused on a specific component of SWP implementation: Career Pathways, Middle and High School Engagement, Pathway Navigation, Work-Based Learning and Job Placement, Retention, Success, and Support, Employer Engagement.

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