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Master's Professional Reports Abstract

Work-based Learning: Student Views from a School-to-Career Program

This paper aims to identify the key elements of workplace experience from the perspective of participants in a school-to-career program who were interviewed after having graduated from high school and completed two years at the worksite.

The most important elements of the program for students fell into two categories: their interpersonal experience (and interpersonal skills development), and their learning environment in the workplace. Significant interpersonal support and direction came from students' assigned supervisors, mentors, and coworkers. Students felt they had better experiences when there were clear goals and structure to their learning, and when they had realistic feedback on performance.

Comparisons of these students' experiences with other contemporary studies support the conclusions that four elements of program design mattered most for students, and have similar potential for further programs. They are:

  1. Opportunities to develop strong relationships with adults at the worksite who supervise, coach, and mentor students.

  2. Positions that offer a workplace culture that is welcoming to newcomers and encourage their learning (formal and informal), participation, and productivity in the adult work environment.

  3. Goals for work and learning accompanied by explicit, realistic feedback, and structure of assignments sufficient to provide varied and challenging learning.

  4. Participation in an identifiable cohort of young people, with opportunities to reflect and receive guidance individually and as a group.

--Author's foreword.