As the value of a college education comes under increased scrutiny, more students and their families are pursuing post-high-school alternatives, such as work-based opportunities.
Work-based learning involves formal activities, such as apprenticeships, internships, and work placements, and less-formal ones, such as career speakers and job shadowing.
For the career counselor, this represents a challenge: how to support, with equal vigor and wisdom, the students who want to head to college and those who seek direct career opportunities?
For one thing, it takes enormous time and effort. It also requires re-balancing that time and effort, as the ultimate goal of work-based learning is to help students explore and prepare for career opportunities that may not involve college.
To support students who target work and not college, counselors must be knowledgeable about what it takes to succeed in a variety of different contexts. They must also have a close understanding of student interests, build the right school resources, and identify community support.
Learning tips for better managing student work-based opportunities can help. Here are three good ones to consider.
1. Take a Data-Based Approach
Managing a work-based learning program requires that you maintain a comprehensive yet evolving view of student interests. If you don’t know what students want to pursue, it’s hard to provide the resources and relationships to help them gain the skills and experience that they need to succeed.
Trying to do this on the fly, with ad-hoc spreadsheets manually filled with data, is one approach, but it’s a difficult one to maintain and next to impossible to use to detect trends.
Technology can help. A curriculum-planning application such as Choices360 enables students to explore various postsecondary pathways in addition to college. It can help expose your students to the benefits and requirements of apprenticeships, direct-to-work opportunities, the military, and other options.
Once a student settles on something that sounds right for them, Choices360 can provide an approach to their curriculum planning to help ensure that they are on track to develop the learning knowledge and experience needed for the next step.
From a counselor’s perspective, Choices360 compiles data across students’ various choices. In aggregate, the data can be analyzed to look for common groups of interests, helping guide counselors and their schools in designing programs and opportunities for their students.
2. Ease the Administrative Burden through Technology
The learning modules in platforms such as Choices360 can ease the administrative burden involved in managing student work-based opportunities—for counselors, students, and even employers.
The platforms provide easy access to information about prerequisites and other program details, as well as application forms and other documents needed to help evaluate a student’s proper fit.
Counselors can become familiar with the requirements of the program to serve as trusted advisors, and students can download, complete, and submit forms when they are ready.
There are further benefits outside the four walls of the school, as XAP has discovered in its partnership with the North Dakota Department of Career and Technical Education. XAP and North Dakota educators announced earlier this year that they are implementing a work-based learning module in the existing RUReady.ND.gov portal, which is available for workforce development purposes for both career counseling and planning.
The module has features that can help streamline overhead, in part through partnership with employers. For instance, employers can use the platform to add themselves to the work-based learning database, sharing their programs with prospective students around the state.
This drastically eases the reliance on counselors to identify these opportunities and bring those employers into the program. The module also makes it possible for students to explore opportunities and find matches for work-based learning opportunities. It also allows employers to add themselves to the database
3. Develop Partnerships
Successful work-based learning programs require coordinating with many different stakeholders, including employers and business-based associations.
Trying to do this alone, however, is a recipe for burnout. There are too many calls to make and too few hours to make them. Your colleagues in other districts are also probably feeling overwhelmed by the challenge.
There is value in numbers. Partnerships can make the task easier for everyone, including employers and associations.
The National Governors Association has recognized this, making the pursuit of partnerships in work-based learning a top public policy priority.
In addition to leveraging elected officials for their support, you can lean on local boards of cooperative educational services to build coordinated approaches to work-based learning partnerships.
Another source of relationships may be local chambers of commerce or other business associations, state departments of education, and local community colleges.
Together, counselors and these stakeholders can build cohesive programs that benefit students and create best practices in work-based learning.
Choices360: A Proven Solution for Managing Student Work-Based Opportunities
Counselors have many demands on their time, including helping individual students explore and prepare for the right post-secondary path for them.
Work-based learning opportunities are crucial pillars in the student exploration process. But programs such as job shadowing, opportunities for internships, and guest speakers are time consuming to set up and manage.
Choices360 is a single end-to-end online solution for students from middle school to high school that can help ease the time crunch of managing these opportunities. One major element of Choices360 is its ability to support students in envisioning who they are and how they can achieve their goals. The platform includes measurement tools to ensure that students are on track.
Exploration tools help you, as the counselor, understand what types of student work-based opportunities to arrange. This frees up your valuable time to devote to individuals who need your help the most.
XAP’s team of education professionals is focused on providing tools that lay the groundwork for students to obtain both a high school diploma and a plan for their future.
Here at XAP, we believe that exploration lays the foundation for planning. That’s why we help school and district counseling leaders implement equitable programs and strategies to ensure that students graduate high school not only with a diploma but also with a plan.
To see how we can help you better support your students and drive state, district, and school initiatives with greater ease, transparency, and data, feel free to contact our specialists today!
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