Employing Work-Based Learning to Build a Robust Pipeline of Workers for ICT Careers

How many of us have benefited from an internship, job shadow or were inspired to follow a certain career by a speaker who took the time to present to our class in elementary or high school or attended a career fair?  Exactly, most of us.

Which is why we must ensure that our region’s employers and academic institutions are working together to deliver work-based learning opportunities. Not only are they good for business, they are important drivers of student interest in sectors that need workers, informing students about careers they didn’t even realize existed and to give them the knowledge as to what academic path they need to follow to reach their career goals.

The theme of work-based learning was the driving force behind the spring 2018 ICT Regional Advisory Committee meeting. The meeting was held on April 6th and drew employers, faculty, workforce partners and non-profits from around the region. This topic is certainly not specific to ICT (Information and Communications Technologies), and will be addressed across future Regional Advisory Committee meetings for the top 10 priority sectors for career education in the coming year.

Work-based learning opportunities provide a mutually beneficial experience to both employer and student, but where to begin? Or how can you expand your program without exhausting limited resources? We’re glad that you asked, as our esteemed panelists – Susan Wheeler, workforce planning and education relations strategist, Human Resources, Diversity & Inclusion with SMUD; Cathy Koumelis, workforce program manager with ARUBA, an HP Enterprise Company; Katy Hensley, work-based learning coordinator for Sacramento Unified School District; and Carol Bernardo, program coordinator, work experience education & internships with Cosumnes River College – provided insights to those questions.

As the panelists explained, there is a continuum of opportunities for employer engagement in work-based learning experiences. The paths along the continuum include career awareness, career exploration, career preparation, and career training.

Career awareness is about bringing light to your sector and the various careers available. This helps to broaden student options and provides guidance in terms of academic pathways required to enter a field. Career Exploration assists students in learning more specifics about your career/sector. Exploring career options helps motivate students to define their academic pathways through better understanding of their own interests and skills. The focus of career awareness and exploration is on learning about work.

Career preparation is learning though work. This requires a bit more time, preparation and resources but the benefits to your human resources pipeline are priceless. These programs allow students to learn through hands-on work experiences, enabling them to better understand the intricacies of employment across different industries. Examples of career preparation include internships or student-run enterprises supported by partners.

Career Training is about learning for work. Work-based learning experiences in this area include helping existing workers gain new skills or competencies; preparing for specific occupations through post-secondary education; and learning a trade or job skills through apprenticeships

These work-based learning experiences are accessible to all companies regardless of size. However, one experience mentioned above – apprenticeships – is garnering a lot of excitement. Although it would require more resources and a long-term engagement, it has the potential to solve challenges such as workforce gaps related to credentialing backlogs, reducing costs associated with hiring highly skilled workers, and specialty training. Apprenticeships, long attributed to the trades, is an exciting new opportunity being pushed at the state and national level to non-traditional sectors as opportunities for growth, including the ICT and healthcare sectors. As a result, additional funding has been allocated to support programs driven by groups of employers and academic institutional partners who apply through the California Apprenticeship Initiative, deadline is May 18th, 2018.

Kelly Mackey, Apprenticeship Consultant, Department of Industrial Relations, California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, engaged the advisory committee in an eloquent overview of the purpose, expectations and opportunities associated with apprenticeships.

Ms. Mackey also reiterated that apprenticeships can be developed by anyone, from a company of 5 to 500. She and her team are ready and willing to support all employers’ efforts to build apprenticeship programs.

As you can see there are many ways to engage students and we highly encourage you to dive in and get creative. There are resources and specialists available to you via the community colleges, high schools and state-level organizations who can help you take that first step. You can help build a strong regional workforce by providing opportunities for students to educate themselves, to get excited and trained for careers available to them in the local region.

To learn more about Valley Visions’ 21st Century Workforce projects, click here. If you are an employer and would like to be involved in future Regional Advisory Committee meetings to inform career education program, please contact We look forward to working with you.

Lucie-Anne Radimsky is a Valley Vision Program Coordinator working in the 21st Century Workforce strategy.

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