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Work-Based Learning


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Work-based learning includes a continuum of structured activities utilizing the partnership between industry and education to engage student learning. Through experiences with industry professionals, participants are able to foster first-hand engagement with in-depth application of academic, technical and professional skills to the tasks required of a given career field while meeting specific learning objectives. Work-based learning is a progression through awareness, exploration, preparation and training to support student learning for future success.

Work-Based Learning at Schools

Work-based learning is an essential component in the 21st century classroom. It provides real-world, hands-on work to students and supports the relevance of classroom lessons. Work-based learning not only enables students to explore and engage with various careers, it teaches them the all-important professional skills needed by industry. Work-based learning involves various district staff with the following roles and responsibilities:

  • Work-Based Learning Coordinator - Oversees the classroom content, training plans, periodic evaluations, and other contracts to ensure student learning and safety. Visits the internship site routinely to ensure employer support.
  • School District - Provides appropriate time during the school day for the work-based learning coordinator to visit the student while at the internship site to ensure student learning and safety.
  • Intermediary Coordinator - Collaborates with the work-based learning coordinator to connect potential internship sites opportunities.
  • Internship Manager - Provides meaningful opportunities for students to develop skills at the internship site.

Getting Started with Work-Based Learning

High School Internships

Internships provide students with a hands-on opportunity to develop career and professional skills with an industry partner in a workplace setting.

Iowa Internship Toolkit - Highlights key components of a high-quality internship program to prepare students for success in postsecondary education, training and careers.

High School Internship Guidance - Provides information on designing various types of internship opportunities and support for students participating in internships.

Sample Training Plan - A template that can be used as an evaluation tool for an internship program.

Sample Training Agreement - An example of a contract to be signed before a student participates in an internship.

Multioccupations Endorsement - An endorsement designed for those who supervise students in on-the-job situations such as cooperative education programs and school-to-work programs.

Work-Based Learning at Community Colleges

Iowa’s 15 community college districts, in partnership with the Iowa Department of Education and Future Ready Iowa, are focused on increasing Work-Based Learning opportunities for students and employers, regardless of industry, size and geographic location to meet Iowa’s workforce needs.

Community colleges offer many work-based learning experiences within the curriculum, offering internships, practicums and career exploration. Transfer majors are also being built between the community colleges and universities with related work experiences in mind. Guidance for developing work-based learning within the curriculum is available within the following resources.

Iowa Community College Work-based Learning State Initiative

Iowa Community College Work-based Learning Implementation Guide

CIP Crosswalk for WBL Programs

Marketing Documents for Iowa Community College Work-Based Learning Opportunity


Work-Based Learning Toolkits - Provides guidance, tools, and recommendations to address barriers to increasing opportunities for high school students, while also providing a wide range of real-world examples from across the state that can be modeled and replicated within local communities.

Sectors of Opportunity - Iowa Career Pathway Mapping Projects - Opportunity documents have been created for information technology, energy and utilities, advanced manufacturing, health sciences, building and trades, and transportation, distribution and logistics.

Business Education Alliance Work-based Learning Schematic - Overview of work-based learning opportunities and resources in Iowa.

School-Based Enterprises

Iowa Intermediary Network - Bridges education and industry to curate exceptional work-based learning opportunities to support student career awareness and exploration with a focus on the great careers in Iowa.

Professional Organizations

Iowa Work-Based Learning Coordinators - Connect, collaborate and share ideas with other work-based learning coordinators in Iowa.

Association of Career and Technical Education - Provides education leadership in developing a competitive workforce by empowering educators to deliver high-quality career and technical education programs that ensure students are positioned for career success. The website features a Work-Based Learning section.


Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on September 16, 2021 at 10:33am.