The “Getting to Know” blog series will feature the work of State CTE Directors, state and federal policies, innovative programs and new initiatives from the Advance CTE staff. Learn more about each one of these topics and the unique contributions to advancing Career Technical Education (CTE) that Advance CTE’s members work on every day.
Meet Brian Robinson! Brian is a policy associate for Advance CTE’s state policy team. Brian supports our data and knowledge management work, the Advancing Postsecondary CTE Data Quality Initiative (PDI), funded by ECMC Foundation, research and data collection around the nation’s area technical centers and leads communities of practice where we bring together states in the cohort to share best practices and work through data challenges and needs.
Brian also manages our Learning that Works Resource Center which is a resource repository of all things CTE with over 500 reports, case studies, and more spanning 14 different topic categories.
Q: How would you define work-based learning, and the role it plays in high-quality Career Technical Education?
A: Work-based learning is pretty broad in definition; it is the opportunity for learners to develop awareness and exposure to different careers, explore different career paths, make connections between classroom learning and programs of study, and demonstrate their skills in an authentic real-world setting.
Work-based learning has the power to make the abstract real for learners, providing the opportunity to apply industry skills in the field and learning directly from practitioners. Work-based learning also has the power of building social and cultural capital for learners that we know is important for career advancement. Learners have the opportunity to build professional networks, find mentors, and learn soft skills like how to show up to work on time, how to interact with colleagues and clients, how one dresses for work or an interview, how to develop a resume, etc. All of this matters when we’re thinking about high-quality CTE and equitable career development.
Q: During the pandemic and distance learning, in what innovative ways have states continued to provide work-based learning opportunities for learners?
A: This has been one of the most challenging aspects of CTE during the pandemic – work-based learning. A lot of businesses were closed, businesses nor schools wanted to take on the liability of having a student working during the pandemic, and of course parents did not want their children being exposed either. Many states turned to virtual experiences for work-based learning opportunities on the lower end of the spectrum because those were easier. Work-based learning coordinators in South Carolina created virtual tour videos for learners in place of “field trips”. Many states and local school districts partnered with for-profit companies to create experiences such as live industry chats with industry professionals. In some limited cases students were able to engage in virtual internships. In Miami-Dade, Florida, they turned their summer youth internship program into a virtual experience. Almost 3,000 learners worked in South Florida this summer in a wide range of industries. However, most programs of study are very difficult to deliver virtually and even when you can, there’s the issue of the digital divide that’s been exacerbated by COVID-19 (coronavirus).
Q: What are some ways states can continue to think boldly about scaling their work-based learning opportunities across their CTE programs?
A: Advance CTE is currently rewriting our work-based learning guide with a focus on approaches states can take to ensure equitable access to high-quality work-based learning experiences regardless of race, socioeconomic status, ability, or geography. There are five – that provide the basis for the guide- approaches states can take to boldly scaling work-based learning opportunities:
- Establish a clear and ambitious statewide vision for equitable access and create the policy environment and infrastructure to support this vision.
- Create and/or support statewide and local/regional intermediaries who do the on-the-ground work of recruiting learners and employers, helping to facilitate work-based learning experiences, and supporting both learners and employers through the process.
- Use data to advance equity and program quality. It’s not enough to just collect data, but leverage that data to track learner participation and success in high-quality work-based learning opportunities. Use the data to identify opportunity gaps and create a plan to close those gaps.
- Engage with employers to meet the needs of the labor market while expanding opportunities to traditionally underrepresented learner populations and maximizing learning outcomes.
- Lastly, identify successful programs or create pilot programs that can be scaled to create more opportunities for all learners
Q: What resources can you share with states on work-based learning?
A: States looking to scale their current work-based learning opportunities can leverage the Work-based Learning tab in the Learning that Works Resource Center where all of our great resources are. Some specific ones are:
- Improving Youth Apprenticeship Data Quality: Challenges and Opportunities (our most recent resource developed as part of the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship with New America)
- State Strategies to Scale Work-Based Learning from our partners at the NGA
- Many states chose work-based learning as a secondary program quality indicator for their Perkins V plan. Here is a great resource for measuring this indicator: Measuring Secondary CTE Program Quality: Work-Based Learning
- Work-based Learning: Model Policy Components from our partners at Education Commission of the States
- Connecting the Classroom to Careers: A Comprehensive Guide to the State’s Role in Work-Based Learning
Brittany Cannady, Digital Media Associate