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What is Work-Based Learning (WBL)?

Work-Based Learning (WBL) is a term for activities which link  employers and schools to provide special  learning experiences for students. These experiences focus on developing broad skills that apply knowledge and skills learned in the classroom to the real world.  Students with disabilities must be given the opportunity to participate in work-based learning programs that fit their needs.  These work experiences can be paid or unpaid. The work-based learning helps students to find their career interests, assess their training needs, and develop the skills and attitudes necessary for paid employment. School credit may be given for these  experiences.



WBL is an important educational experience. It helps develop the foundation skills that will be needed in the shift to adulthood. WBL is a way to take learning beyond the classroom. Students can  connect classroom and work based learning, helping to prepare students for future schooling and careers.


Job Shadowing

Following an employee at a workplace for 1 to 8  hours to learn about an occupation or career  pathway of interest. (For students with disabilities,  up to 5 hours is allowed)

Community Service/Volunteering 

Volunteer experiences that teach  students responsibility, community  involvement and an awareness of the needs of others.

Service Learning

Community service that directly connects to the knowledge and skills  learned in classrooms.

Senior Project

Students research a topic or career interest in a specific career pathway. This research serves to guide the  student in learning about the college preparation and  skills training needed to be successful in that pathway.

School Based Enterprise

Business within the school that provides services for  students and/or staff, for example a store or a  newspaper stand and a credit union.

Career Fair

An event to expose students to many career pathways  and help them match their interests and abilities to  potential career options. (Does NOT count toward hours for CDOS credential)

Career Focused Field Trips

Tours of local businesses to learn about career  opportunities and the paths to take in order to  explore a group of similar jobs. (Does NOT count toward hours for CDOS Credential)

Entrepreneurship (New Start-Up Business) 

Students plan a start-up company or product idea  involving the design of a business plan, financial  planning and marketing strategy as an activity or class  project. (Does NOT count toward a CDOS Credential)

Internship/Community Based Work Experience

This is a supervised school-based and/or community based work experience for students which can be paid or  unpaid. The work experience will help students identify career interests, develop work skills, and assess the  necessary skills needed for employment.


Specific guidelines (set by the U.S. Department of  Labor and Education) for providing community based  work programs for students with disabilities.


*Vocational exploration - 5 hours per job experience

*Vocational assessment - 90 hours per job experience

*Vocational training - 120 hours per job experience


  • The Way to Work: How to Facilitate Work Experiences for Youth in Transition by Richard G. Luecking


Career & Technical Education - Work Experience Manual Visit for more info.

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