MDRC’s recent (virtual) discussion with representatives from 13 schools, districts, and program intermediaries that provide work-based learning found each of them seizing unexpected opportunities amid considerable challenges.

Work-based learning includes opportunities such as internships, apprenticeships, job shadowing, career mentoring, and other hands-on job training that build specific skills and provide students real-world professional experience and networking opportunities. The abrupt shift to virtual educational interactions hit work-based learning opportunities that are often central to career and technical education programs especially hard.

At the same time, the importance of maintaining work-based learning experiences for students remains pertinent as the economic fallout resulting from the public health crisis increases the chance that high school and community college students could graduate during a recession. Maximizing work-based learning opportunities while students are in high school and community college — and keeping students connected to the labor market — may be an important way to mitigate these problems.