In the state of Georgia, we have a work-release program for students aged 16 years or older coined Work-Based Learning (WBL). Essentially, if a WBL coordinator at a school uses the program well, WBL becomes a bridge for students from academics to the work force through meaningful internships. Most states have this sort of program and while I have learned more about it over the last three years, this is the first year I find myself in the coordinator position (along with a few other distinct roles). A coordinator is responsible for piles of data, including, yes, grades, attendance, applications, but also, inputting information into a state database, maintaining your own database, evaluations from various businesses, maintaining and developing a roster of businesses, sign-out sheets–the list really does go on and on. The amount of paperwork can certainly be justified. We’re talking about real work, real businesses, adolescents and adults working together for a common good. That all translates to a need for accountability from everyone involved.
In the opening weeks of this school year, my eyes have been opened to the challenges my upperclassmen face and the realities they face in the world waiting for them after high school. If you follow my blog, there is a good chance you know I am an advocate and proponent of using the classroom space as one where not only is content taught but soft/21st century skills are practiced as well. Hence, my strong belief in project-based learning (PBL) as a viable and important instructional method. The WBL program is meant to support growth in these areas as well. Really, before a student even qualifies for WBL at 16 the hope is they have taken at least one course in Career and Technology Education (CTE) where many of those skills are to be focused on continually. What has become apparent in the last few weeks is despite CTE, or even exposure to some PBL, many of WBL students really do lack the soft/21st century skills necessary for their success beyond the confines of high school. Continue reading