Work-based learning can be divided into three main categories: Awareness, Exploration, and Workplace Experience (see graph below).  Each area has specific actions.  While these actions are progressive in nature, a program does not have to do all of them to be effective, nor do they have to be done in the exact order listed.  The grade levels listed for each area are also guidelines.


Grades 6 – 11

Aptitude/Interest Surveys – are paper or computer-based assessments designed to determine a person’s likely ability or desire to do a certain type of job, or more commonly, a career area.  Minnesota’s CAREERwise lists 16 clusters and 81 pathways.  Their assessments can help a student determine which path might be best for them.

Classroom Speakers – Industry speakers that come into a classroom and give a presentation about what they do.  This can range from question and answer to hands-on activities for the classroom.

Informational Interview – Think of this action more like a student acting as a news reporter interviewing someone from industry about their particular career.

Career Fair – This is a very popular event in schools as it exposes students to a broad range of possible careers.  Think of an open gymnasium with rows of tables and/or booths.  Each booth represents a different career option.  A good way to ensure students have participated in the event is to have them each list a set number of different organizations that they connected with, along with the questions they asked and the answers they received.  They could also be required to circle their favorite and comment on why they chose that particular career.

Career Conference – Similar to a Career Fair except multiple industries present career options within their industry to a large group of students then conduct break-away sessions based on student interest and deeper study.  Usually requires multiple break-away sessions so students can find out about multiple industries.


Grades 9 – 12

Business/Industry Tour – This is where an individual or small group of students goes to an industry location to see what it looks like and visit with actual workers at the facility.

Field Trip – Similar to a Business/Industry Tour, a Field Trip is where an entire class, grade, or school goes for a visit.  Often, more than one industry/location is visited and is done in a rotating fashion dividing the whole group into multiple smaller groups of students.

Job Shadow – Individual students visit an industry location and watch an individual or group of people do their job for an extended period of time (several hours to multiple days).  This could involve watching several different jobs related to the same industry.  For example, you could have students visit an automotive repair shop in the morning and visit an auto body shop in the afternoon to help decide which career choice will be better for them.

Themed Project – Assist teacher in designing a multidisciplinary learning activity; and/or provide feedback on student work.

Mentorship – Can be formal or informal.  Formal mentorship could be an industry person that “adopts” a student or group of students and helps them with school work during the school day.  Informal mentorship might look like a friend or family member that shows a less experienced person a craft or trade.

Tutor – Assist students who may be behind on short-term skills that align with long-term learning objectives.

Audition – Observe student performing industry tasks and provide constructive feedback.

Summer Camps/After School Activities – After-school Extracurricular Activities allow students to explore industry-specific training and career exploration outside of the regular school day, but often utilize school resources in the experience.

Competition Judge – Judge presentations or competitions; provide constructive feedback based on learning goals.

Service Learning – An example of service learning would be an individual or group of students that have learned how to change oil in a vehicle and check various fluids, then performing those jobs for someone that can’t necessarily pay for those services (the elderly, or those in temporary housing as they try to escape domestic abuse).

School-Based Enterprise – Provide a work experience, usually conducted at the school, that provides preparation for workplace employment/experiences related to a specific industry.


Grades 11 – Adult

Practicum – Allow students to complete a short-term project in an industry setting.

Employability Skills – Provide on-the-job work experience where student can hone skills needed to be employed (soft, industry, etc.)

Resume Improvement – Provide constructive feedback on students’ resume

E-Portfolio – Review students’ collection of industry-related projects, and provide constructive feedback.

Mock Interview – Conduct mock interview (either in-person or virtually) and provide constructive feedback on interview skills and ability to answer questions appropriately.

Internships – These are short-term experiences (think summertime during school year) that can be paid or unpaid, but are part of a coordinated educational plan.  Whether the internship is paid or not depends on several criteria as outlined in this fact sheet.

OJT/Cooperative Work Experience – On-the-job training (OJT)/Cooperative Work Experience is similar to an internship in that a student works at an industry location and gets school credits for attending, but the focus is more on the work experience than in a more inclusive and strict set of academic learning outcomes like there are in an internship.

Pre-Apprenticeship – This is a program that helps underprepared or underrepresented persons be properly prepared for a registered apprenticeship.  It can be conducted as part of a high school offering or be done by community organizations or community colleges.

Registered Apprenticeships – Are programs registered with the state that provide training with select industry partners.  These are certified programs lasting anywhere from 1-6 years.  These are paid positions, but in MN also require 144 hours of classroom instruction for each year of apprenticeship. Additional information can be found here.

Teacher-Centered Activities

Develop Coursework – Work in partnership with the teacher to develop coursework and/or curriculum for the program related to your area of expertise.

Advisory Committee Member – Volunteer as an Advisory Committee Member and help guide the curriculum and programming at the school.

Teacher Externship – Allow teacher to work in industry during off times from school (nights, weekends, summer, etc.)

INdustry Opportunities

Here you can view additional ways industry can get involved with your programs!

Work-based Learning Examples and Resources