What are work-based experiences and how can they help your career?

From internships to externships, there are 6 primary forms of work-based learning that employers utilize to level-up their employees, or the workforce. The WBL program that works best for you is mostly dependent on your career goals. Which one is right for you?

What is work-based learning?

Basically, work-based learning refers to all forms of learning that takes place in a real work environment. All work-based learning programs should:

  • Align the classroom and the workplace
  • Apply academic, technical, and employability skills
  • Receive support from classroom and workplace mentors 

The term “work-based learning” has been expanded to “work-based experiences” since they frequently include more opportunities for skills-based training. Work-based experiences should align with your career path, your skills, and your interests.

Job Shadowing: is a short term opportunity that introduces the student to a particular job or career by pairing the student with a more experienced colleague. As the student acts as the experienced colleague’s “shadow”, the student gets familiar with the duties and responsibilities associated with that job.

Job shadowing may be ideal for an employee who will be assuming a new role in a more immediate time frame.

Mentorship: is a relationship in which a more experienced person helps to guide a less experienced person. The purpose of mentoring is to utilize the existing knowledge, skills and experience of a more senior colleague and transfer these skills to newer or less experienced employees in order to advance their careers. 

Mentorship is more of a long-term relationship over the span of one’s career and provides guidance as opposed to actual job training.

Externship: is an experiential learning opportunity similar to internships but generally shorter, provided by partnerships between educational institutions and employers to give students short practical experience in their field of study.

Internship: is the position of a student or trainee who works in an organization, sometimes without pay, in order to gain work experience or satisfy requirements for a qualification.

If you are currently receiving your education or entering into a new career field, an internship is a good way to gain the education necessary to be employed in your ideal job.

Apprenticeships: involves being taught and supervised by an experienced employee of an organization and periodically evaluated for progress as per the skills and knowledge acquired. An apprentice learns in a realistic environment and gets the opportunity to apply their knowledge in real-world scenarios.

On-the-job training: is the training a person is given while doing a job and getting paid. Similar to shadowing, on-the-job training is often for individuals who anticipate stepping into a role along their career path more immediately.

Which work-based learning program is right for your career path? 

If you’re just starting out or well established in your career but looking to advance, speak with your employer to determine your next steps. While entry level employees may benefit from the immediacy of job-shadowing or on the job training, experienced professionals may fit within a mentorship relationship. If you are still unsure as to where to begin, take our career assessment.

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