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Leon: Work-based learning benefits students of the 21st century

photo of Susan Leon who is talking about work-based learning
Susan Leon, above, is a work-based learning specialist at Western Maricopa Education Center. (File Photos/DigitalFreePress.com)
Work-based learning can offer transcendent experience for aspiring professionals
By Susan Leon | Point of View

As thousands of Arizona high school students settle into this school year, many are thinking about future careers and what to do after high school. So how can students set themselves up for success this school year?

One of the ways to do so is by enrolling in a Career and Technical Education program that includes work-based learning.

What is work-based learning?

Work-based learning is an integral part of the CTE Delivery Model where students have hands-on learning experiences that directly correlate with a specific industry. The curriculum goes beyond a textbook and provides students with mentorship, industry knowledge, certifications, and sets them up for career readiness.

The goal of work-based learning is to provide a seamless transition from school to the workforce. Through work-based learning, students can grasp whether or not they would like to work in the industry, perform a specific job, or work for a specific employer. It is a bridge between the classroom and employment.

Many students who participate in CTE programs are also eligible for dual enrollment, where students not only gain industry credentials, but are also earning high school and even college credit.

Work-based learning programs may be anything from welding and construction to veterinary sciences and cosmetology. The opportunity for Arizona students to participate in work-based learning is far and wide.

It’s camaraderie like this that can sometimes help shape the perspective of prospective employees just entering the workforce in a positive way. (File Photos/DigitalFreePress.com)
Work-based learning can offer transcendent experience for aspiring professionals

At a CTE school like Western Maricopa Education Center (West-MEC), work-based learning is integrated into their 26 different programs fitting a variety of students’ needs and interests.

What are the benefits to work-based learning?

Through work-based learning, students can earn their certifications, gain a deep understanding of their trade, and are career-ready right after graduation.

At West-MEC, not only do students participate in hands-on learning, but they are also growing their professional network and making connections with leaders in their future industries. West-MEC has built strategic partnerships with Valley leaders like Pacific Dental Services and Abrazo Health that allow students to work within their many locations.

The learning goes beyond the classroom and students can see what they learn applied in real-life situations. These relationships often lead to employment opportunities for students once they graduate.

Those who decide against pursuing their trade, but instead choose to obtain a four-year degree, still reap the countless benefits of work-based learning. All students interact with guest speakers, hone their professional skills, develop their resumes, practice mock-interviews and explore various career paths to determine what path they want for their future.

Regardless of what the student does after graduation, work-based learning is proven to be a beneficial experience. In fact, the U.S Department of Education found that students who participated in work-based learning graduate at a higher rate than their peers and are projected to be more employable.

Students interested in participating in work-based learning next semester or next school year, should explore their interests at CTE schools like West-MEC or explore opportunities like internships, externships, clinicals, and apprenticeships. Any opportunity to explore a career field and gain hands-on experience will help set students up for success.

Editor’s note: Susan Leon is a work-based learning specialist at Western Maricopa Education Center.

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