How Work-Based Learning Opportunities Benefit Students
"Work-Based Learning Opportunities for high school students are key for their academic success, as well as professional development," says Geymi Santana, Pathways, Internship and School to Work Manager at Chelsea High School.
MEFA Pathway is a free college and career planning destination, designed to help students search for opportunities as well as plan for post-secondary success. Within MEFA Pathway, there are a variety of interactive features and functions that enable students to think about their future – the opportunities are endless. The Internships feature within MEFA Pathway is one great example of Work-Based Learning (WBL) and why it can be an integral component of a student's self-discovery journey.
We recently interviewed Geymi Santana, the Pathways, Internship and School to Work Manager at Chelsea High School about Work-Based Learning, why it's so necessary, and how it can open student's minds towards possibilities.
- Why do you think Work-Based Learning (WBL) is important for students? WBL opportunities for high school students are key for their academic success, as well as professional development. Through WBL experiences, students are able to strengthen skills learned in their classrooms by applying these to real life work experiences. I also believe that through these experiences, students are not only able to strengthen skills learned in the classroom, but also explore different career options in their field of interest.
- What are some examples of Work-Based Learning opportunities or programs? Meaningful - and of great impact - Work-Based Learning experiences are internships. I think that being able to do internships as a high school or college student allows students to explore what their interests are before fully committing to a career that they don't know much about. Internships, fellowships, and job-shadowing are all perfect examples of WBL experiences that allow students to gain valuable work experience, network with other students and professionals, and develop their skills.
- How can WBL be beneficial to employers and schools? WBL experiences help schools strengthen their relationships with other organizations and institutions within the community. I also believe that having a solid WBL program can increase students' engagement in school. Students can have something to look forward to that is more than just sitting in a classroom to absorb mainly textbook information. Not that that's all negative, but I think that many students are often more of the "hands-on" type of students. Therefore, having a program where students can put into practice what they learn in the classroom is of extreme importance for students' engagement in schools.
- How can students connect what they are learning in the classroom to real world situations? I think students can connect many things learned in the classroom to real world situations. When it comes specifically to skills learned in the classroom, for example, I think that providing students with internship, fellowship, and job shadowing opportunities is important for them to be able to connect those skills learned in the classroom. I believe that students are not only able to put into practice what is learned in the classroom, but also learn new things as they face the real world and what it actually looks like outside of the classroom.
- What are some ways to encourage students to participate in WBL? I think the best way to encourage students to participate in WBL is to talk about the positive impact that it can have on their career and academic success in the future. Whether they decide to go to college or not, the skills students learn while involved in WBL experiences are often transferable and applicable to almost any experience. Participating in WBL programs can also provide students with the opportunity to explore career pathways that they never thought of, and allows them to start creating their own little networking web that could eventually be of great benefit for their future. Emphasizing how much of a positive impact their participation in WBL can have in their career and academic future is a strategy I often use to encourage students to participate in WBL.
- Do you think the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the need for work-based learning programs? I don't know how much COVID-19 has impacted the need for work-based learning programs, but I do know that COVID-19 has definitely impacted all WBL programs and made them rethink their way of doing things to make the program accessible and easy for students in the midst of all the COVID-19 chaos.
- What are some tips for students who are looking for internships? What should they keep in mind? Always be open minded, don't be afraid to explore pathways that you never thought existed within the career field of your interest. Ask questions. It is okay to be curious and ask other people questions about what they do for a living and what their experience has been like. I think asking questions can help students to have a better idea of what type of internship they would like to pursue based on what they learn from other professionals' experiences. Some internships are unpaid, while others aren't. However, whether they are paid or not, all internships are equally meaningful and of great impact. I think that when applying for an internship, it is important for students to think about how that internship fits within their ultimate career goals.
- Where do you see the future of Work-Based Learning opportunities and programs going? Or where do you hope it goes? I think the number of WBL programs will increase as more schools start to realize how much impact these programs have on students' success. One thing I do hope for is that these kinds of programs become more accessible for students with an IEP.
- What are some programs or opportunities that Chelsea High School offers? The Chelsea High School Internship Program introduces juniors and seniors to career opportunities in the fields of Health and Life Sciences, Law & Public Policy, Education, and others, to give students the opportunity to prepare for college and career through a rigorous program of study integrating academics and on-the-job experience during spring semester every year.
If you're interested in learning more about MEFA Pathway or bringing it to your school, please feel free to reach out to the MEFA Pathway team at firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope to hear from you.