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In the realm of Career Technical Education (CTE) and Work-Based Learning (WBL), conventional practices often rely solely on a single school’s resources. These constraints can pose challenges in cultivating robust business partnerships, breaking down access and diversity barriers, and delivering high-quality student experiences. The inherent silos in our approach compel students and businesses to navigate multiple systems and processes, hindering the creation of meaningful connections and opportunities spanning secondary, post-secondary, and workforce programs. Regrettably, work-based learning, college/career navigation software, and even workforce development tools often compound these issues by emphasizing rapid deployment of single-site instances, which limit participation outside of the immediate client base.

A comprehensive review of high-quality practices in CTE and WBL underscores that no individual school can independently attain the benchmarks of success and quality. The true potential is unlocked through the development of Work-based Learning Ecosystems.

A Work-based Learning Ecosystem encompasses all community partners critical to the scalability and sustainability of a WBL program. These high-caliber WBL solutions impact educational systems, and the talent pipeline, and contribute to the elevation of local economies by nurturing the next generation of the workforce. The ecosystem represents all stakeholders within these systems.

In a whitepaper titled “Work-based Learning Ecosystems,” co-authored by Getting Smart and GPS Education Partners, ecosystems are recognized as the key to “successfully integrating schools, employers, and community partners to build resilient, ground-up, and scalable WBL models that endure beyond grant funding.”

Work-based Learning Ecosystems extend their impact beyond the establishment of sustainable partnerships. For students, these ecosystems enhance access and equity, particularly for underrepresented individuals, through:

  • Social Capital: The ecosystem provides access to a network of adults offering valuable guidance and support to WBL participants.
  • Exposure: WBL experiences open doors to new and uncharted opportunities.
  • Resume Credibility: Students with WBL experience on their resumes stand a better chance of being hired.
  • Higher Entry Point: Students with paid WBL experiences are more likely to enter the workforce at a higher wage.

GPS Education Partners has been instrumental in empowering communities to construct work-based learning ecosystems. The following collaborative workstreams are highlighted:

  • Supporting Students from School to Workforce: Sustaining momentum and quality in partnerships necessitates data-sharing tools and processes. The PAIRIN My Journey platform is a comprehensive software solution integrating case management applications, career and college exploration resources, work-based learning management tools, and extensive data and reporting capabilities. This versatile system caters to students, employers, workforce development, secondary, and post-secondary stakeholders in a seamless virtual environment. Its capabilities extend to connecting ecosystems across entire states, with successful implementations in Virginia and Colorado.

Work-based learning Ecosystems are not just a vision; they are a tangible reality, with dedicated software to underpin these initiatives. To learn more, reach out to the presenters:

Written By

Amanda Daniels an employee of GPS Education Partners

Amanda Daniels
Curriculum and Instructional Design Director
GPS Education Partners

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