Work-Based Learning Overview

  • Quality Work-Based Learning
  • The Continuum
  • Essential Elements
  • Acceptable Activities
  • Employability Skills

Quality Work-Based Learning

  • Introduction

    This overview provides an introduction to the principles of Quality Work-Based Learning and lays the foundation for developing any Work-Based Learning experience. The WBL Quality Standards and the WBL Essential Elements presented in this toolkit serve as an easy reference of things to pay attention to when creating high-quality, learning-rich experiences across the full continuum of Work-Based Learning activities.


    These experiences can have powerful impacts on students as they build their knowledge of potential careers, explore areas of interest and develop, practice and demonstrate new skills. They can also help provide relevance and help refocus attention and effort on academic and occupational learning in the classroom.

  • What is Quality Work-Based Learning (QWBL)?

    Work-Based Learning is an authentic learning experience that allows students to explore their career goals, abilities, and interests while applying their academic and technical knowledge and skills in a real-world context. These experiences are planned and supervised by instructional staff in collaboration with business, industry, or community partners.


    Students learn by observing and/or actually doing real work. Learning in the workplace or from industry professionals, in person, supports academic learning and promotes the development of broad transferable skills.


    Quality Work-Based Learning includes related virtual activities for most WBL activity types. Virtual Work-Based Learning Activities are defined as those that promote “live” student contact with adult professionals and front-line workers through the use of technology.  Other Virtual Activities are defined as those that are generally simulations or classroom activities and provide employer exposures through recordings, online research and related activities. Hybrid activities are defined as those that combine both virtual components


    When offering virtual options to students, it is important to pay attention to technology access and equity in the distribution of opportunities in addition to ensuring the necessary permissions, protections and guidance are in place to promote student safety.

  • Why Work-Based Learning (WBL)?

    High-quality Work-Based Learning provides opportunities for the acquisition of academic, technical and workplace professional skills among students engaged in career-related programs or course of study in New York City Public Schools. Regardless of industry, employers consistently underscore the fact that new workers must have experience and mastery in all three skill areas, with a growing priority on the development of core employability skills. To support students in developing these skills, authentic workplace experiences are important when combined with academic study, classroom training and other college and career-readiness activities. Mock Interviews, Career Days, Workplace Tours, Guest Speakers, Informational Interviews, Job Shadowing, Work Experience, Career Mentoring, Workplace Challenges, Work Experience, Internships and Apprenticeships provide real-world context and the opportunity to learn about the workplace and prepare for the future. Providing authentic workplace experiences and bringing employers into the classroom as part of the career development process can create powerful learning experiences and deepen the educational experience for students.


    Work-Based Learning activities engage the employer as both a customer and a partner, providing developmental experiences for students in the workplace while helping build the future workforce. These experiences augment school-based classroom activities and offer the opportunity to learn about potential careers and to practice and demonstrate professional and defined work-readiness skills.


    This toolkit has been developed to address the need to provide a range of high-quality opportunities to students in New York City, and to help schools, workforce intermediaries and their employer and community partners deliver educationally rich and authentic Work-Based Learning experiences to students.


    NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS supports Work-Based Learning (WBL) as a key activity that allows students to build a bridge from adolescent roles in the classroom to adult roles in professional settings. WBL activities include exposure to a range of occupations and career options, and classroom or community activities that incorporate employers as speakers, advisors, instructors or career mentors. Students learn by observing and/or actually doing real work. Learning in the workplace or from industry professionals supports academic learning and promotes the development of broad transferable skills.


  • Benefits for Students

    Through Work-Based Learning activities, students build awareness of potential careers in a particular industry and can explore options and start preparing for their future. Work-Based Learning provides opportunities for hands-on learning and the development of relationships with professional adult role models. Participating students acquire experience and build core employability and occupational skills while learning about the training or education required to succeed in specific careers. They are better able to understand real-world applications of academics and occupational training, and can answer the question, “Why do I need to learn this?”


    By integrating a range of workplace exposures and experiences with school-based activities and guidance over time, students will often set their sights higher than an immediate job and are likely to remain committed to their education though completion of their personal and career-related goals.

  • Benefits for Employers

    Participation in Work-Based Learning offers an effective and appropriate vehicle for employers to help build and retain their future workforce. Employers report increasing mismatch between the skills required for entry into their industry and those of the emerging workforce. By opening their place of business to students and providing high-value Work-Based Learning opportunities, employers can benefit from productive student work or gain a new perspective on an issue or a problem. Employers can observe potential future employees in a “long-term interview” context and participate in shaping their future workforce. Students also provide access to a customer resource and point of view.


    An employer’s existing workforce benefits from more productive and engaged employees and from the opportunity to offer leadership and supervisory skills development to its current workers. Participation provides an opportunity for companies to support local schools and help develop a highly skilled and productive future workforce. It builds awareness in the community of the employer’s role in the local economy and offers a public relations benefit.

  • Benefits for Schools

    Work-Based Learning extends the classroom to the workplace and brings employer volunteers into the school and classroom. It helps build awareness of industry-identified skills to incorporate in the classroom curriculum among educators and validates curriculum instructional models.  It provides touchstones in authentic workplaces to help make classroom learning relevant and helps schools and programs build relationships with the community. WBL also provides opportunities for networking and relationship-building to promote future collaboration with employer partners.

  • Benefits for the Community

    Work-Based Learning activities connect the community to schools and local economic development efforts, promote civic engagement and help address community priorities and issues. Students complete community projects and are visible as productive and contributing community members of society. WBL also helps grow a more productive and committed workforce, and demonstrates a commitment from schools and employers to provide opportunities for local citizens.

  • Work-Based Learning Quality Standards

    Quality Work-Based Learning is:


    • Designed to promote enhanced learning, skill development and workplace awareness
    • Structured to be effective, safe, legal and measurable
    • Supported by appropriate planning, tailored training and efficient processes
    • Connected to classroom learning, individual career development plans and sequenced education, training and workplace activities


    Quality Work-Based Learning is Designed to promote enhanced learning, skill development and workplace awareness.

    Work-Based Learning supports and enhances classroom instruction by providing a context for learning. It provides unique opportunities to practice and demonstrate new skills, and assists in the development of workplace awareness. It helps build the skills required for specific occupations by exposing students to the multiple career options available at a workplace. Work-Based Learning engages students in their own learning and provides multiple opportunities for reflection on the experience, both verbally and in writing.


    Quality Work-Based Learning is structured to be effective, safe, legal, and measurable.

    Work-Based Learning provides authentic and relevant learning and doing experiences that are safe, legal and in compliance with state, federal and local regulations. Learning objectives are met through ongoing assessment and continuous improvement activities. Systems are in place to support teachers and program staff in designing and implementing quality WBL experiences and to make it easy for employer and community partners to participate.


    Quality Work-Based Learning is supported by appropriate planning, tailored training and efficient processes.

    Work-Based Learning has defined services and procedures to manage expectations and foster communication among all partners. Students are served through individualized work-based learning plans defined for each experience and are sufficiently prepared and supported throughout the experience. Part of this preparation is providing appropriate safety and health training for young workers and helping them understand their rights and responsibilities as employees. Employers and community partners receive support and appropriate training to enable their participation, and school staff are trained in how to design and deliver high-quality experiences.


    Quality Work-Based Learning is connected to classroom learning, individual career development plans and sequenced education, training and workplace activities.

    Work-Based Learning supports a community-wide vision and collective expectations for both academic and occupational learning. Experiences are designed to directly support academic and occupational learning, build core employability skills and provide a planned sequence of experiences that links academic concepts to real-world application. Students are guided and supported by an individualized career development plan, where Work-Based Learning activities are sequenced and connected to the student’s next step.


    Adapted from “Creating Quality Work-Based Learning”, New Ways to Work – 2002, 2010, 2016.

The Work-Based Learning Continuum

New York City Public Schools has defined a sequenced continuum of Work-Based Learning activities and experiences for all students that address Career Awareness, Career Exploration and Career Preparation. This is accomplished through a series of work-based classroom activities, workplace exposures, and community experiences over time. Classroom activities support and provide opportunities to reflect what’s learned in the workplace and community, and workplace learning experiences support the classroom curriculum. In addition, students are supported by and provided role models and guidance from adults in the school and in the workplace. Students are provided experiences that are commensurate with their knowledge, skills and abilities, and designed to support the acquisition of knowledge and skills. These experiences are also compatible with their age and stage of development.


All students are provided with a full range of opportunities throughout their engagement in career-related programs of study with the opportunity to participate in authentic work-based learning experiences at each level of the WBL continuum. Employers and community partners provide WBL opportunities that make sense for their organization, work for the business, and provide direct benefits to the student, the employer and the school. The following are the three levels of the Work-Based Learning continuum.

Career Awareness

  • Guest Speakers
  • Career Days
  • Career Mentoring
  • Workplace Tours

Activities designed to promote awareness of careers, workplace norms and employer expectations, as well as personal interests and aptitudes.

“I understand what’s out there and am discovering the kinds of things I might want to do.”

Career Exploration

  • Industry-led projects
  • Informational Interviews
  • Job Shadowing

Activities designed to promote a deeper understanding of potential careers, and to provide opportunities for an investigation of a particular industry, career or occupation of interest.

“I'm interested in this field and am beginning to understand what it's all about and what I need to do to pursue a career in the industry."

Career Preparation

  • Mock Interviews
  • Workplace Challenges
  • Internships
  • Work Experience/Co-Op
  • Pre-Apprenticeship
  • Apprenticeship

Activities designed to promote awareness of careers, workplace norms and employer expectations, as well as personal interests and aptitudes.

"I know the kinds of things I want to do and am getting the chance to learn new skills and practice applying those skills.”

WBL Essential Elements

New York City Public Schools has identified a set of essential elements to support the implementation of all Work-Based Learning experiences. Teachers and WBL coordinators can use these elements to help ensure that all activities are engaging, safe and learning rich.

  • 1. Conduct Effective Planning

    • Set clear goals and expectations for all parties
    • Ensure activity is developmentally appropriate (age, stage and grade)
  • 2. Prepare for Success

    • Prepare students, teachers and employers
    • Address logistics, including access to and use of appropriate technology.
  • 3. Identify Student Learning Objectives

    • Align to core employability skills
    • Link to college-readiness skills and academic standards
  • 4. Create Authentic and Engaging Experiences

    • Support effective participation of employers
    • Provide hands-on and project-based activities when possible
  • 5. Connect to Careers

    • Provide for exploration of or experience in a field of interest and exposure to a range of potential career options
    • Provide exposures to authentic work-world experiences
  • 6. Support Student Growth

    • Connect to an individualized career or training plan
    • Promote student interaction with adult professionals
  • 7. Ensure Activities are Safe and Legal

    • Address child labor laws, OSHA, Workers Compensation, and the Fair Labor Standards Act (including pay when required)
    • Reflect workplace norms and technology use permissions, protections and guidance.
  • 8. Provide Ongoing Support

    • Provide orientations and support for all parties
    • Ensure that Work-Based Learning is appropriately staffed
  • 9. Provide for Reflection, Presentation and Feedback

    • Support student self-assessment and presentation
    • Provide opportunities for formal and informal feedback among all parties
  • 10. Connect to the Student’s Next Step

    • Connect the experience to the classroom
    • Intentionally sequence with future Workplace Learning experiences
  • 11. Assess and Document the Experience

    • Document student learning
    • Assess activity effectiveness

Acceptable Activities

The WBL Acceptable Activities List (Also called the Activity Grid) is a tool created by the NYC Schools Career Pathways’ Team to guide schools in creating and documenting the Work-Based Learning activities and experiences for students during their high school tenure.

Acceptable WBL Activities

  • Community Service

    • Accepted New York City Public Schools WBL
    • Valid CDOS 54 WBL Hours
    • Valid for CTE Endorsement
  • Internship

    • Accepted New York City Public Schools WBL
    • Valid CDOS 54 WBL Hours
    • Valid for CTE Endorsement
  • Job Shadows (Interactive, 1:1 OR Small Group)

    • Accepted New York City Public Schools WBL
    • Valid CDOS 54 WBL Hours
    • Valid for CTE Endorsement
  • Mentoring / Career Mentoring

    • Accepted New York City Public Schools WBL
    • Valid CDOS 54 WBL Hours
    • Valid for CTE Endorsement
  • Onsite Projects

    • Accepted New York City Public Schools WBL
    • Valid CDOS 54 WBL Hours
    • Valid for CTE Endorsement
  • Career Based Research Projects/ Industry Based Research Projects (When Paid in CPP: Workplace Challenge)

    • Accepted New York City Public Schools WBL
    • Valid for CTE Endorsement
  • School-Based Enterprise

    • Accepted New York City Public Schools WBL
    • Valid CDOS 54 WBL Hours
    • Valid for CTE Endorsement
  • Supervised Clinical Experience

    • Accepted New York City Public Schools WBL
    • Valid CDOS 54 WBL Hours
    • Valid for CTE Endorsement
  • Youth Apprenticeship

    • Accepted New York City Public Schools WBL
    • Valid CDOS 54 WBL Hours
    • Valid for CTE Endorsement

"Zero Hour" Supporting Activities

None of the following activities are considered valid for WBL.


  • Career Days
  • Elevator Pitch
  • Guest Speakers
  • Mock Interviews
  • Resume / Cover Letter Development

Employability and Academic Literacy Skills

The following skills are a defined set of the core skills and behavioral competencies necessary for successful transition into the workplace. New York City Public Schools has identified these core employability skills and academic literacy skills as benchmarks for all students to demonstrate through their participation in career-related programs or course of study in New York City Schools. Combined with the necessary academic and occupational skills, demonstration of these skills indicates readiness for work.

Work-Based Learning coordinators, teachers, employer partners and students should consider these Employability Skills when creating learning objectives for a particular work-based learning activity, or developing assessments to gauge student skill acquisition.

Employability Skills

personal mindset

Needs minimal supervision to complete tasks. Maintains focus on tasks despite internal (e.g., emotional) and/or external distractions. Adapts approach in response to new conditions or others’ actions.


Trustworthy and reliable. Takes responsibility for completing all given tasks and adheres to all deadlines.

social awareness

Recognizes the consequences of one’s actions. Balances own needs with the needs of others.


Helps team members complete tasks, as needed.

problem solving

Identifies alternative ideas/processes that are more effective than the ones previously used/suggested.

professional attitude

Brings energy and enthusiasm to the workplace. Takes responsibility for his or her actions and does not blame others.


Is familiar with the technology needed to complete the work. Able to adjust to, and utilize the technology necessary to complete all tasks.

time and attendance

Manages time to complete tasks on schedule. Punctual. On-time to appointments and meetings

Academic Literacy Skills


Artistry, curiosity, imagination, innovation, personal expression.


Ethical, and social-justice literacy.


Financial literacy, entrepreneurialism.

global awareness

Multicultural literacy, humanitarianism.

scientific literacy

Scientific literacy and reasoning, the scientific method.


Environmental and conservation literacy, ecosystems understanding.

health & wellness

Health and wellness literacy, including nutrition, diet, exercise, and public health and safety.

New York City Public Schools also recognizes the skill building blocks created by MHA Labs. MHA Labs has designed a common set of easy-to-understand 21st century skill targets known as The Building Blocks. The Building Blocks comprise 35 core social, emotional and cognitive skills deemed critical for college, career and life success, and includes skills from five broad categories: personal mindset, planning for success, social awareness, verbal communication and collaboration. From those 35 skills, 10 core skills have been identified as Core Employability Skills.