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Work-based Learning Trending Up in the Big Apple

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“There are One Million middle skills jobs in New York City and 46% of New Yorkers lack the skills to fill them.” (NYC DOE website)


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The New York City Department of Education (DOE) is seeking to ramp up on one of its most important initiatives, work-based learning (WBL). According to their website, Work-based learning (WBL) is a progressive, multi-year sequence of instructional activities that extends students’ learning from school into a real-world, work-related context. These experiences allow students to build a bridge from adolescence to adulthood.”  

For their nearly 90 schools offering career and technical education (CTE), WBL is especially critical, but the challenges associated with delivering this type of education at a high level for all students requires the orchestration of many moving parts, including finding and managing employer partners who play a key role in students’ development (e.g., providing jobs, internships, job shadowing, mentoring and coaching).   

The Lab is working with NYC’s DOE to launch a multi-year engagement focused on the explicit integration of it’s 21st century skill digital badges within their P-Tech schools located throughout the city.  The P-Tech model, a national movement designed in collaboration with IBM, is a grade 9-14 concept that provides students 4 with the opportunity to earn a high school diploma as well as an “industry-recognized associate degree” while gaining “relevant work experience in a growing field.” Most graduates of NYC’s P-Tech schools go directly into the workforce, but an increasing number of students are interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree.

Last week, the Lab laid the groundwork for the work ahead as part of an end-of-year wrap-up meeting with leadership from NYC’s DOE CTE office, members of P-Tech schools as well as an employer partner (Montefiore Medical Center). Imagine a world in which students’ 21st century skill development is intentionally delivered by the school and employers and emphasized as much as their academic development. Imagine a world in which students have a dashboard of their 21st century skill development and can see how the things they do, inside and outside of the classroom, contribute to their growth.  This work will be fascinating as The P-Tech schools are well-positioned to push an already innovative model to new heights and redefine “work-based learning” for the city’s nearly 1,700 schools.