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Work-based learning initiative reports growth, success

Date: Monday, March 21, 2022

A statewide work-based learning initiative that connects businesses to Iowa classrooms has noted positive results and continued growth in its annual report released earlier this month.

The Iowa Clearinghouse for Work-based Learning’s annual report details how students, teachers and employers expanded virtual partnerships during the second year of implementation. Best practices and stories from the field are also included as part of this year’s report.

“In our second year, we saw more teachers and businesses engaged in work-based learning,” said Jake Welchans, project manager for the Iowa Clearinghouse for Work-based Learning. “This report shows the clearinghouse is helping ensure more students are getting quality work-based learning experiences to become more future ready for college and careers.”

Through the work of the clearinghouse, businesses can post projects online for students who are seeking more work-based learning opportunities. These projects focus on authentic, professional experiences that help solve real-world problems. Educators use these projects to enhance their work in the classroom and provide vital career exploration and hands-on skill-building experiences for their students. Businesses and students alike can make valuable connections for future workforce and career opportunities.

The Iowa Clearinghouse for Work-based Learning is a part of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ Future Ready Iowa initiative, which connects Iowans to education and training opportunities required for vocational and life success. Created through a 2018 state executive order, the clearinghouse is a joint venture of the Iowa Department of Education and Iowa’s Area Education Agencies and is supported by Iowa Workforce Development (IWD), Iowa Economic Development Authority and the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council.

For this academic year, the clearinghouse strives to continue growing the program with both businesses and schools. Outreach projects and contests, such as the statewide Build Iowa’s Future Design Challenge, will continue to be offered to schools, and posted projects and professional development opportunities will be promoted at conferences, meetings and other venues. Staff and businesses have also recently provided details about the clearinghouse on social media and IWD’s Mission: Employable podcast. These efforts will assist in building off of the success from the 2020-21 year.

Notable highlights from the 2020-21 report included:

  • 485: Number of students involved in projects more than doubled from 2019-20 to 2020-21.
  • 1,200: Number of estimated involved students for 2021-22
  • 200: More than 200 businesses have been directly involved in the clearinghouse
  • 1,600: Number of businesses open to involvement with the clearinghouse
  • 300: More than 300 projects have been posted since implementation
  • 95: Number of businesses currently posting a project
  • 900: Number of teachers participating in professional development increased from 350 to 900 in 2020-21