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Training Tomorrow’s
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Training Tomorrow’s
Workers


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Employers rely on work-based learning (WBL) programs to identify and recruit high-quality staff. NORC found the most successful WBL programs are the ones in which employers invested adequate resources towards planning and managing those training programs.

Erin Knepler, Research Scientist
Education & Child Development

Employers need a skilled labor force to thrive in our ever-evolving, knowledge-based economy. To meet that demand, businesses, high schools, universities, industry associations, and community organizations are developing and offering what are called work-based learning (WBL) experiences. These can take the form of internships, apprenticeships, externships, cooperative education, or capstone projects, all of which give students practical experience in their future profession as they complete their degree or certificate.

For the past two years, NORC has collaborated with the Business-Higher Education Forum and Northeastern University to conduct a mixed-methods study of how employers are using WBL, identifying partners, planning for future WBL activities, and measuring their programs’ efficacy. Published in October 2019, the report details WBL’s advantages, such as strengthening a company’s hiring goals and public profile, and challenges, such as the time, energy, and financial resources required to make them successful.

The study included interviews and surveys of chief human resource officers in several corporations—including Boeing, State Farm, and KeyBank—that ranged in size from 500 to more than 25,000 employees and operated in a broad range of sectors. The study also involved in-depth case study interviews with four leading WBL providers: Siemens, Bloomberg, Wayfair, and Raytheon. Company representatives reported that internships are the most common type of WBL, and longer WBL experiences are more valuable for companies and students.

Based on our findings, we recommend that employers expand WBL partnerships to include community colleges—an often overlooked resource for talent.