Building Your Path

3 Benefits Work-based Learning for Non-college-bound Students

Work-based learning gives students a connection to what they are learning in the classroom to how it can be used in the real world. For students who are struggling to find a reason to graduate from high school, or are not college-bound, work-based learning can put students on a path toward graduation and a career. 

We have found that 12% of students will not graduate from high school and 30% of those that do will not go on to a traditional 4-year college. Countless students leave high school with no diploma or any idea of what interests them in the job market.

Work-based learning can be exactly what some students need to find value in their k-12 education and give them an idea of what profession they would like to pursue. Work-based learning puts students in the position to reinforce the knowledge they learned in the classroom by engaging them in authentic tasks of the workplace that “create a context for creative decision making in uncertain situations”.

One of the desired outcomes of work-based learning is workplace readiness. Students can apply their soft skills and classroom knowledge by participating in job shadows, internships, and apprenticeships.

Types of work-based learning experiences

Job Shadow 

Job shadows give a basic workplace introduction for students. Students can see what a day-in-the-life is like for an individual working in a particular field. With a minimum commitment by both students and employers, students are able to see if they have any interest in the career that they explored for a day.


Internships require more commitment from students and employers. These commitments are often short and compensate students monetarily or with academic credits.  This type of work-based learning experience should be structured in a way that gives students the real-world, on-the-job experience that can be proudly put on a resume. 


Apprenticeships are longer (between 1 and 6 years) and intensive programs that are often administered by state and federal agencies. When students finish their apprenticeship they leave with a credential and the ability to seek full-time employment.

The benefits of work-based learning

1. Non-college-bound students can explore their career options

When a student leaves high school without the knowledge of what it is like to work in a certain industry, they can waste time and money in pursuing credentials and end up working in a field that they did not realize that they would not like.

While different work-based learning opportunities give students varying degrees of career exposure, they all give students a better understanding of what working in a particular field would look like.

Career exploration can range from getting a basic understanding of what a standard workday would look like to a deeper understanding of the employable skill and credentials needed to get their foot in the door. 

2. Students can gain the skills necessary to get hired after graduation

Work-based learning has been compared to a student learning another language immersing themselves in a study abroad program to better understand the language. 

For non-college-bound students, work-based learning gives them the opportunity to immerse themselves in a career path. The end goal for these students is to complete their internship or apprenticeship with the skills necessary to become employable after graduation.

These programs are especially effective when businesses play a role in designing the curriculum with local school districts. 

3. Talent pipeline for businesses

Work-based learning can play a part in a seamless transition from high school to the workforce. When a student participates in a program with a local business, they learn how a specific business works and the business gets an intimate connection to a  talent pipeline. 

Rachel Hirsch, of the National Skills Coalition, says, “Businesses get a productive employee and can align training with the specific needs of their occupation and industry. Work-based learning leads to increased employee retention and lower turnover costs.”

The benefits of connecting non-college-bound students to work-based learning are there, so how can it be done easily and at scale?

Connect your non-college-bound students to work-based learning opportunities with Awato

Non-college-bound students, unfortunately, receive less hands-on guidance than their college-bound counterparts. Non-college-bound pathways are less defined and more complicated than applying to college, so these students need a way to facilitate building local connections. 

Awato can make this entire process simple and easy for students, educators, and employers:

  • Employers have the ability to create their own page and list their open positions that are available for students using the Awato platform. 
  • Students are automatically connected to opportunities that would be the best for them based on their assessment results. 
  • Educators can easily facilitate all the needed documentation within the platform to seamlessly get students hands-on experience with local employers. 

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