Strategies for Increasing CTE Work-Based Learning Opportunities

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Not long ago, we wrote an article about how to improve your CTE student placement rate.
One of the key components of improving your student placement rate is increasing the amount of work-based learning at your CTE program.
But how exactly do you do that? How do you gain industry partners?
It’s all about building working relationships.
The strategy comprises three parts:
  1. Communicate
  2. Educate
  3. Perpetuate
Let’s take a look at each part of this three-pronged strategy for increasing work-based learning opportunities at your CTE program, as well as some sample tactics.

Communicate

Effective communication is always a two-way street, and building CTE industry partnerships is no exception. The partnership will be mutually beneficial, so the communication must flow both ways if you want to properly explain to each party involved what they stand to gain.

Communicate with potential industry partners.

First, you need to build your case with local employers. Make sure those employers understand the value that they’ll be getting from the partnership, namely that they get to help train the students the way they want them to be trained, giving the students the exact skills that they as an employer want the students to possess when it comes time to find and hire employees.

Example Tactic: Invite industry partners to your school for breakfast.
  • You can have the culinary arts classes prepare the breakfast.
  • Plan the breakfast around everyone’s schedules.
    • Schedule it for early in the morning, from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. This way, the breakfast won’t interfere too much with the employers’ work day.
    • Host it on a Professional Development Day so that your staff is available.
  • Carefully plan the seating arrangement in clusters so that teachers and employers in the same industry are sitting together. That way they can discuss internships.
  • Prep your teachers beforehand so that they know (and are able) to stress how internships can help meet employers’ labor needs.
    • They may want to touch on, for example, the wave of retirements in the industry’s workforce and the importance of incorporating newly developed talent into their strategic long-term planning.

Facilitate communication for potential industry partners.

Once you have employers on board with the partnership, you need to¬†help those partners to communicate directly with your students and teachers. Employers will be able to speak to working at their businesses better than anyone else can, so give them that platform. It’s an opportunity for them to promote their businesses, which in turn helps your program gain and make use of work-based learning opportunities.

Example Tactic: Ask industry partners to be guest speakers.
  • Remind employers to discuss the full range of opportunities at their business in order to appeal more broadly to the entire student body. If you bring in the owner of a large auto dealership, for example, the employer should discuss roles in auto mechanics, auto body, precision machining, etc.
  • Organize a student assembly with all the relevant classes in order to get the most out of the speaking engagement.
Remember, these internships are mutually beneficial. They’re essentially on-the-job interviews, which is a great opportunity both for the employers and for the students. The employers get to assess future employees in a hands-on way, and the students get a foot in the door and a chance to shine.

Educate

When we think of educating, we tend to think of teachers teaching students. However, students can only learn as much as teachers know. That’s why it’s important to keep your teachers informed of what, exactly, employers in the current market need from your students.
The best way to do this is to make sure your teachers are actively building working relationships with local employers in their field.
Example Tactic: Allow teachers to spend a day at a job/internship site.
  • By visiting face-to-face, your teachers will develop and maintain more familiarity not only with the current state of the industry and what the employers need, but also with the employers themselves as people.
  • Here again, scheduling in conjunction with your Professional Development Day makes logistical sense.

Perpetuate

This is the piece that even programs that already have industry partners sometimes miss.
Once you’ve put in all the hard work of establishing and maintaining industry relationships with local employers, don’t sit back. Put it all together and leverage¬†the successes you achieve in a way that produces more success in the future.
To do that, you need to publicize individual student-placement successes.
Think of it as communication and education combined.
You’ll be communicating the success of your students, as well as promoting the businesses with which those students worked, learned, and got a job.
In doing so, you’ll be educating more people — new students, more employers, parents of future students… everyone — about your program and about the path forward for CTE.
Example Tactic: Start a spotlight campaign to share stories of students who achieve successful outcomes through your internship program.
  • Write a press release highlighting the student’s full pathway, from CTE classes to internship to employment.
  • Post that press release on your website.
  • Share that post on Facebook and other social media.
In this way, the cycle of positive outcomes builds on itself, which is great news for everyone.

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