Work-Based Learning Experiences

Work-Based Learning Experiences (WBLEs)  may include in-school or after school opportunities, or experience outside the traditional school setting (including internships), that is provided in an integrated environment to the maximum extent possible.

Work Based Learning is an educational approach or instructional methodology that uses the workplace or real work to provide students with the knowledge and skills that will help them connect school experiences to real-life work activities and future career opportunities. It is essential that direct employer or community involvement be a component of the WBL to ensure in-depth student engagement. These opportunities are meant to engage, motivate and augment the learning process. These WBL opportunities can be done in conjunction with private, for-profit, public or nonprofit businesses in your community and/or through web-based resources. In addition, work-based learning requires in-depth engagement of youth and an evaluation of acquired work relevant skills.

Work-based learning experiences, may include:

These WBL opportunities can be done in conjunction with private, for-profit, public or nonprofit businesses in your community and/or through web-based resources. In addition, work-based learning requires in-depth engagement of youth with oversight and evaluation of acquired work relevant skills by identified staff. The work based learning experience must be provided in an integrated setting in the community. Where paid WBL experiences are provided, the wages are to be paid at no less than minimum wage.

Source:  Work-based Learning in California, The James Irvine Foundation

  • Job Shadowing: Job shadowing is a popular on-the-job learning, career development, and leadership development intervention. Essentially, job shadowing involves working with another employee who might have a different job in hand, might have something to teach, or can help the person shadowing him or her to learn new aspects related to the job, organization, certain behaviors or competencies. Source: Career Counseling by Jennifer M. Kidd.
  • Career Mentorship: A mentor is one who teaches or provides guidance and advice to a less experienced and often younger person. Source: Introduction to mentoring, American Psychological Association.
  • Career Related Competitions: Career-related student competitions are work-based learning activities that require students to demonstrate mastery of career-related skills through presentations or competitions that are judged by professionals. Presentations demonstrate culminations of student effort over time, often involving teamwork. Career technical student organizations sponsor such competitions in the fields of agriculture, business, health, hospitality and industrial technology.
  • Informational Interviews: An informational interview is an informal conversation with someone working in a career area/job that interests you, who will give you information and advice. It is an effective research tool in addition to reading books, exploring the Internet and examining job descriptions. It is not a job interview, and the objective is not to find job openings. Source: Informational Interview, UC Berkley, Career Center.
  • Volunteering: Volunteering is when a person donates his/her time or efforts for a cause or organization without being paid. It may be a one-time only or an on-going commitment. It should directly or indirectly benefit people outside the family or household or else benefit a cause, even though the person volunteering normally benefits as well. Most volunteer sites are non-profit organizations.
  • Workplace Tours/ Field Trips: A group excursion for the purpose of first-hand observation to specific work sites. Students learn about the business, meet employees, ask questions and observe work in progress. Source: Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS).
  • Internships (Paid Or UnPaid): An internship is a temporary position with an emphasis on on-the-job training rather than merely employment, and it can be paid or unpaid. An internship is an opportunity to develop specific job related skills before you are qualified for an actual job.
    The Department of Labor's website offers guidance and information on their "employment laws assistance for workers and small business - elaws section on volunteers. The following link provides helpful information on the Fair Labor Standards Act as it pertains to volunteers: Internships in the “for-profit” private sector will most often be viewed as employment, unless the test described below relating to trainees is met. Interns in the "for-profit" private sector who qualify as employees rather than trainees typically must be paid at least the minimum wage and overtime compensation for hours worked over forty in a workweek.

The following six criteria must be applied when making this determination:

  1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship;
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

Source: elaws - employment laws assistance for workers and small businesses -volunteers

The Department of Labor has identified the following time limits specific to internships/work experiences to ensure an employee relationship does not exist:

Career Exploration (limited to 5 hours/job) - a brief exposure to a variety of work settings and may include work site field trips or job shadowing to view the type of work being performed.
Career Assessment (limited to 90 hours/job) - an extended observation where the student undertakes work assignments for the purpose of assessing his/her interests, aptitudes, and support needs.
Work-Related Training (limited to 120 hours/job) - a period of work experience for the purpose of training job skills and job-related skills.

If all of the factors listed above are met, an employment relationship does not exist under the FLSA, and the Act’s minimum wage and overtime provisions do not apply to the intern. This exclusion from the definition of employment is necessarily quite narrow because the FLSA’s definition of "employ" is very broad.

The following link to the DOL website provides helpful information on the Fair Labor Standards Act as it pertains to the school to work designation which can be helfful in determining whether or not a work based learning experience falls within this category:

eLaws - Fair Labor Standards Act Advisor : School-to-Work

from the Wage and Hour Division (WHD)

WHD also recognizes an exception for individuals who volunteer their time, freely and without anticipation of compensation for religious, charitable, civic, or humanitarian purposes to non-profit organizations. Unpaid internships in the public sector and for non-profit charitable organizations, where the intern volunteers without expectation of compensation, are generally permissible. WHD is reviewing the need for additional guidance on internships in the public and nonprofit sectors.

Such permissible opportunities may include:

  • Practicum: a course of study devoted to practical training in the field, where supervision is provided. Usually applies to a specialized field of study.
  • Service learning: work-based learning activity that integrates meaningful community service with classroom instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities. Source: Service Learning from National Service Learning Clearinghouse.
  • Student Led Enterprises:  school based enterprises that produce goods or services   for sale or to be used by people other than the participating student(s).
  • Simulated Workplace Experience: Simulated workplace experiences are work-based learning activities that simulate work environments in any field. Examples include automotive or construction programs in which sustained industry involvement allows students to develop and apply their skills in the context of industry standards and expectations.
  • Work Experience ( Paid or Non-Paid): work experience offers students the opportunity to explore careers and understand the nature of work through first-hand exposure to the workplace. Students may or may not be paid.
    • Paid Work Experience can be general or vocational, focusing respectively on general workplace skills or career preparation activities within a specific industry or career area.
    • Non-Paid Work Experience is exploratory in nature and its intent is to expose an individual to a variety of occupations for the purpose of building basic workplace competence.

Note: Section 511 of WIOA Title IV limits the use of sub-minimum wage. Individuals age 24 or younger may not begin work paying subminimum wage (less than Federal minimum wage) unless the following actions have been completed:

  • The individual received pre-employment transition services or transition services  under IDEA (and)
  • The individual applied for VR services and has been found ineligible for services (or)
  • The individual has been determined eligible for VR services but has not been successful /achieved Competitive Integrated Employment and client record of services closed.
  • The individual has been provided career counseling and information and referral to other resources designed to assist the person in attaining competitive integrated employment. For more complete detail on Section 511 of WIOA Title IV, see Laws, Regs, and Policy

Resources for this Required Activity

Guiding Questions, Activities, Progress and Outcome Indicators:

Work-Based Learning Experiences: WORD (docx) | PDF (PDF)


A collection of activities to help youth with disabilities explore early work experiences.

  • Explore-Work.com
    WINTAC has worked with Employment Resources, Inc. (ERI), the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of Wisconsin-Stout Vocational Rehabilitation Institute (SVRI) to design a series of web-based modules specific to the five required WIOA Pre-Employment Transition Services activities for use with students with disabilities.
  • AFB Transition To Work Program Activity Guide (American Foundation of the Blind)
    The Transition to Work: Program Activity Guide was created for Community Rehabilitation Program (CRP) Providers, Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Agencies, and Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVI's) working to improve employment outcomes for teens and young adults who are blind or visually impaired. This program activity guide has 19 lessons meant to address WIOA requirements. The activities included in this guide are for service providers to utilize to provide instruction and services to youth who are blind or visually impaired in three of the five required areas: job exploration, work-based learning, and workplace readiness training. The activities can be printed, access electronically, and even e-mailed. The activities are also available as electronic braille files (BRF) in the Unified English Braille (UEB) Code ready to be embossed. The BRF files are available for download at the bottom of each lesson. Right-click and "save as" to download a file to a computer.
  • T-Folio - A free transition portfolio tool for high school age students with disabilities, designed in Washington State through the collaboration of the Center for Change in Transition Services (CCTS) and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR). Work-based learning experiences is one of the units in this on-line tool, and it includes lessons on informational interviews and job shadowing
  • Pathways to the Future - The West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services Pathways to the Future grant project has developed a Sample Lessons to Life After High School manual to facilitate purposeful implementation of secondary transition requirements as prompted by recent legislation and subsequent regulations of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and amendments to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. It serves as a first step to formalizing guidance for West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services and Education professionals charged with youth transition, specifically the five required Pre-Employment Transition Services.
  • Blindabilities.com - Free Blind Abilities app. All the podcasts and blogs are created by fellow blind/visually impaired people. App for iphones -a student could listen to the podcast and then report back on one or two things they learned about the occupations. Many of these podcasts are also transcribed so deaf students may benefit as well.
  • The National Homework Hotline - Resources put together by teachers for blind and vision impaired students experiencing emergency school closures due to COVID-19.
  • Virtual Activities for Teachers and Families - Livebinder is a project of the TX Sensory Support Network, with funding from the Texas Education Agency for students who are blind or visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing, or deafblind. This project put together a ton of information on virtual activities that can be used during this COVID-19 crisis for teachers and families. It includes livestream and virtual field trip videos.
  • Career Exploration in Action - This Innovative Strategies Practice Brief provides practical examples and resources used by promising and exemplary youth programs to engage youth in career exploration. The youth programs and school systems featured in this brief have been recognized by NCWD/Youth as Innovative Strategies.
  • Work Based Learning Measures Series - Measuring student learning while participating in work-based learning experiences gives students an opportunity to reflect on their work-based learning experiences and connect what the knowledge and skills they’ve learned to future career goals. States, schools, and districts can use the data to improve the quality of work-based learning experiences for all students. The series is divided into five modules which highlights the key decision points for selecting work-based learning measures that meet your needs. Then, it guides users through key decision points for developing several different types of measures, including: portfolios, rubrics, employer feedback and evaluation, and student self-assessments.
  • Massachusetts Work Based Learning Plan - Used by a number of local education agencies in partnership with VR, designed to provide structure and depth to work-based learning experiences. he Work-Based Learning Plan includes a job description, list of skills, and reviews. It can be completed as a pen-and-paper document or through the online WBLP screens or the mobile WBLP screens. This resource is specific to residents of Massachusetts, however other states have similar online employment exploration and work based learning sites.
  • CSAVR - The NET The Council of State Administrators for Vocational Rehabilitation has developed a coordinated approach to serving business customers through a national VR team that specializes in employer development, business consulting and corporate relations. At this link there is a drop down menu to News and Job Postings. New resources are added that may help students look at different job clusters, hot jobs, etc.
  • Toolkit for Career Pathways This toolkit has been developed by the WINTAC as a resource to assist State VR Agencies in utilizing a career pathways framework for IPE development, strengthening common performance measures, and enhancing positive employment outcomes. This checklist includes information related to utilizing pre-employment transition services as a first step in the career pathways process.

More Resources


Virtual Job Shadowing

  • VirtualJobShadow.com empowers individuals to discover, plan and pursue their dreams with our unique video-based career planning platform. Interactive tools help students and job seekers develop career paths based on choice, not chance. Please note there is a cost for this curricula.

Career Exploration / Virtual Tour

  • AG Explorer Virtual Field Trip - Transport your students beyond the walls of your classroom into leading agricultural organizations to gain a firsthand account of the diverse career opportunities within the agricultural industry.
  • The Career Index Plus (TCI+) is a career information system that collects Labor Market Information (LMI) from a host of resources and deposits it onto a single, user-friendly site. Access is free and the data is the most recent available.
  • Equal Opportunities Publications includes information on careers opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
  • Pathful Connect is a K-12 live, virtual work-based learning platform that ensures equitable participation in WBL by eliminating geographic, resource and access barriers.
  • Nebraska CTE Career Fields and Career Clusters - The six career fields represent broad sectors of the job market on which students may choose to focus. Each career field is composed of career clusters. The clusters are more specific segments of the labor market. Each cluster is a grouping of careers that focus on similar subjects or similar skills. A basic understanding and exploration of each of the clusters will provide students with a solid foundation for career decision-making to conceptualize the entire world of work.
  • Road Trip Nation - Meet people who found careers connected to their interests and get inspiration and motivation for how you can find a fulfilling career and build a fulfilling life.
  • KQED Career Path Videos - Use over 50 videos to inspire young people to discover careers and explore possible career paths.
  • Khan Academy Career Exploration Videos includes informational interviews where employees talk about the rewards and challenges of working in their position, and why they choose that career.

Employer Pre-boarding and On-boarding Videos