Work-based learning is an educational strategy that combines classroom and real-life work experiences. People gain knowledge, skills, and experience needed to enter a job or advance. “Earn-and-learn” strategies such as apprenticeship and on-the-job training are examples of work-based learning. Under these models, individuals earn a paycheck while mastering skills and gaining practical experience.
Healthcare has a long history of using work-based learning models, such as physician residency programs and clinical rotations for nursing. These well-known models can be adapted for other allied health occupations, such as medical assistant, surgical technician, or patient care technician.
In an environment where the demand for certain occupations exceeds the supply of qualified candidates, work-based learning offers a solution. People gain the skills and knowledge needed to qualify for a job and advance in their careers. Employers gain a qualified workforce.
While work-based learning models vary, successful programs share some common characteristics.
Employer-driven development: Employers drive the program, from defining the skills and knowledge needed, to selecting internal and external partners to plan and implement the program.
Aligned classroom and workplace learning: Successful programs ensure that classroom knowledge is complemented and reinforced by on-the-job, workplace activities.
Wage progression: Employees receive progressive wage increases as skills increase.
Support systems: Support services, including mentoring, coaching, tutoring, and help with personal barriers increase retention and ensure more students complete the learning program.
Collaboration: Employers engage with internal and external partners to collaborate on design, implementation, recruitment, and retention.
Critical Steps for Implementation
Use workforce data analytics: Use data to determine which positions are hard to fill, have high turnover, etc. Is there a high enough volume of open positions that would lend itself to an investment in work-based-learning?
Determine infrastructure needs: Consider the need and availability of space, staffing, computers, and other equipment to implement a program.
Create partnerships: Collaborate with targeted internal departments and external education and training institutions to plan and implement a program.
Developprogram components: Be sure to include hands-on learning activities and aligned classroom instruction.
Recruit participants: Define the target population (e.g., new or incumbent employees) and develop a targeted recruitment plan.
Implement training programs: Ensure that all partners are aligned and clear about roles and responsibilities.
Deploy support services: Coaching and other support services promote retention and increase students’ ability to succeed.
Evaluate and evolve: Establish baseline metrics and data collection and reporting methods. Incorporate participants’ feedback and lessons learned to increase program effectiveness.
A tool kit that provides state and local program administrators with guidelines and resources related to creating a state WBL strategy, engaging employers, collecting data, and scaling effective programs.