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Work-based Learning

Work-based learning (WBL) experiences are a valuable component of the School-to-Career program. Students who participate in these learning experiences are better prepared to be career-focused and globally competitive. The range of experiences available can be illustrated as a spectrum -- from limited career exploration to in-depth work assignments.

Work-based learning experiences provide an integration of core and technical instruction, which enhances the overall curriculum, increases learning, promotes instructional rigor and meets the educational needs of all students.

One essential aspect of the WBL experience is to place the student in a real work setting away from the school. Therefore, the NC State Board of Education requires that work-based learning experiences occur at a location other than the student's school.

The Career Development Coordinator (CDC) at each middle and high school oversees the Work-Based Learning program at his/her school. It is his/her responsibility to ensure that all teachers involved with WBL experiences understand the correct procedures, are using the correct forms, and are submitting student information on a timely basis.

The Wake County Public School System has liability insurance coverage on all students who participate in officially-recognized work-based learning activities. Students must be registered before they go to the WBL experience in order for this insurance to be in effect.

Youth Workers (under 18 years old) Information about youth employment certificates (worker's permit) for underage workers can be found on the North Carolina Department of Labor website.

The Career Development Coordinator at each high school may be qualified to process youth employment certificates. Child Labor information can be found on the United States Department of Labor web page.


Apprenticeship is one of the oldest methods of job training. This method is an industry-driven education and career-training program based on recognized industry standards. It is a means by which employers address current and projected employment needs. This program is a partnership between business, industry, education, and North Carolina Department of Labor (DOL), along with parents and youth apprentices.

Some apprenticeship characteristics are:

  • Use of a skilled journeyman to help instruct the apprentice.
  • Combination of classroom-related instruction with structured work-based learning
  • Employment by an employer who has a direct need for trainees in the occupation. * Incremental pay scale that increases with skill and knowledge development
  • Training of a highly skilled technician or craft person
  • Appropriate for occupations that do not require a college degree but require a high level of skill and knowledge
  • Registration by the North Carolina Department of Labor, Apprenticeship and Training Division. The Division provides free assistance to the employer and to the apprentice and certifies both the training program and the newly trained journeyman.
  • Application of high school apprenticeship hours and experience toward an adult apprenticeship leading to a completed journeyman certificate.
  • High School Pre Apprenticeships differ from regular apprenticeships. The primary difference is that the student may start at an earlier age (16 vs.18), and the student may operate equipment that regular workers may not operate at that age.

Students or potential business sponsors interested in learning more about the apprenticeship program should contact the Career Development Coordinator (CDC) at their high school.


An internship is an experience in which a high school student takes a responsible role as a worker in a company or organization and then reflects on the experience. The Internship Program is a supplement to formal classroom instruction. Its intent is to significantly add to the vitality of the instructional program and to impact the courses that a student has taken or will take. Expected outcomes of this experience for the students include:

  • Increased self-esteem and personal growth derived from successfully meeting new interpersonal and intellectual challenges
  • Acquired new skills and knowledge.
  • Increased exposure to various work roles and career choices.
  • Increased understanding of the relationship between school-based learning and the work experience.
  • Increased opportunities for high school students to explore areas of academic career, or service interests
  • Development of positive relationships between the internship program, the school, and the community

The goals of the internship program are to help the student:

  • Develop good work habits.
  • Experience personal growth.
  • Strengthen communication skills.
  • Gain an awareness of the community's vast resources and the world of work.

A student must complete 135 work hours (1 credit) to complete an internship. Internships do not have to correspond with the school calendar. Students are free to make application and begin an internship anytime during the school year. Credit and grades are assigned after the student completes all requirements and submits all work to the certified staff sponsor. Hours can be earned over the summer prior to the school year and credit is awarded only if the certified staff sponsor is available to oversee this experience. They may occur in the fall, spring, summer, or any combination. Students or potential business sponsors interested in learning more about the internship program should contact the Career Development Coordinator (CDC) at their high school.

Job shadowing

Whether you are a participating employer, educator, or volunteer host, participating in job shadowing is easy and fun.  Job shadowing immerses each student in the world of work, where they can get first-hand information  about job skills and careers.  By bringing students into the workplace to see a marketing professional, a health care technician, or other professional at work, very real and tangible options come alive for them.  Job shadowing provides exciting reasons why students should stay in school.  It creates a critical link between education and success. Job Shadowing is a popular work based learning activity because it provides students with opportunities to gather information on a wide variety of career possibilities before deciding where they want to focus their attention.  Job shadows involve student visits to a variety of work places during which time students observe and ask questions of individual workers.  Job shadows are designed so students play an active role in learning.  Classroom exercises conducted prior to and following the job shadow experience are designed to help students connect their experience to their course work and relate the visits directly to career pathways, related skill requirements, and postsecondary educational options. 

Goals of the Shadowing Program:

  • Demonstrate the connections between academics and careers and helps students learn by making their class work more relevant
  • Builds community partnerships between schools and businesses that enhance the educational experience of all students.
  • Introduces students to the requirements of professions and industries to help them prepare to join the workforce of the 21st  century
  • Encourages an ongoing relationship between young people and caring adults. 

Cooperative Education

Cooperative Education provides on-the-job training for students through a cooperative agreement between the school, the employer, the parents/guardian, and the student.

A cooperative education coordinator is responsible for providing classroom instruction related to the occupation in which the student is placed and for contact with the student and the appropriate supervisor at the training site. Written training agreements and written training plans between the school and the employers are cooperatively developed and available.

Such agreements include:

  • Provisions for the employment of student workers in conformity with federal, state, and local laws and regulations and in a manner not resulting in exploitation of such student workers for private gain
  • Related occupational instruction in school

The student worker receives payment of the prevailing wage for employment and is awarded school credit for on-the-job training. In the classroom, students should receive instruction related to their on-the-job training experiences. A training plan jointly developed by the teacher-coordinator and employer outlines the sequential classroom instruction and on-the-job training a student receives. The training plan is the basis for evaluating the student's progress on the job and in the classroom. Each cooperative student is coordinated and supervised by a teacher coordinator. The cooperative education method is an essential component of five Career and Technical Education program areas: Agricultural Education, Business and Information Technology Education, Family and Consumer Science Education, Marketing Education, and Trade and Industrial Education.  It is appropriate for any student desiring coordinated on-the-job training that connects school-based learning to the workplace. Students are eligible for credit provided that they successfully complete the experience within the guidelines set forth by the Cooperative Education Policies and Procedures Manual adopted by the North Carolina State Board of Education.

Short-Term Work Experiences

(STWE) are an essential way for today's youth to experience the value of work, develop pride in work, and mature personally. Many communities have opportunities for students to work in an industry or to work with some community organization addressing a particular problem or need of the business/industry sector. STWEs allow students to observe and participate in daily operations, develop direct contact with job personnel, ask questions about particular careers, and perform certain job tasks. This activity is exploratory and allows the student to get hands-on experience in a number of related activities.

Possibilities are limited only by the imagination of the students, the staff, and the employment community. The teacher, student, and the business community jointly plan the organization, implementation, and evaluation of the STWE. The STWE can be paid or unpaid work. The STWE program is similar to the Internship program. The main difference is that an Internship requires a minimum number of hours. STWEs do not have a minimum number of hours