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Career and Technical Education (CTE) | Work-Based Learning

13 Benefits of Work-Based Learning for Students, CTE Programs, & Employers

May 28th, 2019 | 6 min. read

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Are you thinking of incorporating work-based learning (WBL) into your CTE program? Is WBL worth the time and effort it takes to get started?

The short answer is yes! WBL can be an excellent addition to any CTE program.

In fact, there are a number of benefits for your students, your CTE program, and your local employers just from implementing WBL!

In this post, we’ll highlight the 13 biggest benefits of WBL, starting with the benefits for your students.

5 Benefits of Work-Based Learning for Your CTE Students


As a CTE teacher, when you’re looking to add something new to your classroom it’s crucial to consider the impact on your students. After all, their experience in your courses can pave the way for their future careers!

When it comes to WBL, students in these programs can experience a ton of benefits.

Overall, we’ve found five major benefits that any student will get from WBL experiences:

  1. WBL connects classroom learning to the real world
  2. WBL gives students opportunities to practice skills in real-world scenarios
  3. WBL helps students develop soft skills
  4. WBL gives students a chance to observe professionals in action
  5. WBL helps students network with potential employers

First, WBL programs marry what students learn in the classroom to real-world application and practice. This makes it easier for students to see the connection between what you’re teaching in the classroom and their future careers.

Second, WBL gives students a chance to practice their skills in real-world scenarios. This is especially important for students who may go onto careers that involve life-or-death scenarios, like healthcare.

As noted by one CTE administrator from Neosho County Community College, “You really can’t test critical thinking skills in real life very well because you’re talking about a human being and you’re not going to let them screw  up… But in a simulator, that’s where it shines… because they can make a mistake and not hurt anybody.”

In addition to honing their technical and critical thinking skills, students in WBL programs develop crucial career readiness skills like professionalism, teamwork, communication, and initiative.

It’s much easier to learn these skills in a WBL setting than in a traditional classroom setting since they rely so heavily on scenarios and real-world practice!

On top of all this, students in internships, clinicals, and job shadowing get the chance to observe professionals working in their future careers. This gives students a much better understanding of how things work in the industry.

Finally, students in WBL can connect and network with professionals in the industry today, including potential employers. These connections set them up for success when it comes time to start their careers!

So now you know how WBL can benefit students — but what about your CTE program?

4 Benefits of Work-Based Learning for Your CTE Program


When administrators and teachers consider implementing WBL, they need to know how it’ll improve their current CTE program. Especially, because when budgets are tight trying something new can have costly effects when it doesn’t work out.

We’ve homed in on four specific benefits that WBL can have on any CTE program:

  1. WBL leads to increased student enrollment
  2. WBL increases student motivation
  3. WBL provides opportunities for individualized instruction
  4. WBL gets your community involved

First and foremost, CTE programs that implement WBL see an increase in student enrollments. If you’re trying to grow your program, adding WBL options can be a great way to do so.

Second, students involved in CTE programs that include WBL have higher motivation and better class attendance. The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction notes that this is because WBL makes education “more relevant and valuable” for students.

Next, WBL empowers teachers to deliver more personalized instruction in CTE settings. If one group of students is at clinicals, the teacher can focus on a separate group in class and vice versa.

Finally, WBL involves your local community in the success of your CTE program.

If your students complete service learning projects, you’re using their education as an opportunity to improve their town and connect them with other residents.

If your students spend time at local businesses, you’re showing employers a fresh pool of new potential employees every year.

This leads us to the last group that benefits from WBL -- local employers.

4 Benefits of Work-Based Learning for Local Employers

benefits-of-wbl-employers (1)

When adding WBL to your program, you’ll need to get local employers onboard to make it success.

While people have good intentions to help local schools improve their programs, it often comes down to how it helps them in the end.

Luckily, there’s four big benefits local employers can get when schools implement WBL:

  1. WBL lets local employers have a say
  2. WBL build a pool of skilled workers
  3. WBL teaches soft skills (so employers don’t have to)
  4. WBL lowers recruitment costs for employers

To start, WBL programs give local employers opportunities to be involved in CTE programs.

That means teachers can work alongside employers to align their classes with the needs of the community.

Along with that, WBL programs create a larger pool of skilled workers. This lowers training costs and provides more quality candidates for employers.

Next, like we mentioned under the benefits for students, the fact that students in WBL gain crucial soft skills is a big win for employers. After all, employers would much rather spend time getting new hires up to speed with the specifics of their company than training them on how to be professional!

Finally, WBL ultimately lowers recruitment costs when employers are hiring new people. If students partake in internships, clinicals, or apprenticeship opportunities, they already have relationships and reputations with local employers.

That means when it comes time to hire new employees, businesses don’t have to use a pool of candidates they’ve never met before.

They may have already spent time at the company!

Where to Go from Here with Work-Based Learning


So you know how WBL can help your students, your CTE program, and local employers.

But did you know you actually have three options when it comes to adding WBL to your program?

Traditional work-based learning is what most people think of when they hear WBL. It involves students spending time both in the classroom and in the workplace.

Simulated work-based learning gives students the experience and feeling of being in a workplace without actually leaving the school. These experiences may involve simulated tools, simulated workplaces, and even school-based enterprises.

Community-based learning (sometimes called service learning) combines CTE programs with community service projects. It’s less focused on interactions with specific employers, and instead connects your classroom to the community in ways that relate to what you’re teaching.

Each of these options has its pros and cons, but in general benefits you, your students, and your local community in many ways.

Want to learn more?

Click below to read our in-depth overview of each WBL option!

Learn About the Different WBL Options