Work Based Learning, Internships, Apprenticeships

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College isn't for everyone, let’s look at other options available to high school students. 

Not everyone will or can attend a two-year or four-year college or university. For many different reasons. Let’s look at other options available to students. 

What is work-based learning (WBL?) Pretty simply, it is exactly what it sounds like. It is an educational strategy that provides students with real-life work experiences where they can apply academic and technical skills to enhance and develop their employability.

WBL can take many different forms, but typically combine on the job training with some type of college courses. This is a benefit in that the student typically earns money while learning real skills and can benefit from formal education. A lot of times this may be a certificate program which are much shorter than traditional college degrees or some kind of professional development.

Many different industries employ WBL to obtain quality employees. These can include healthcare, construction, mechanics, heavy equipment, mining, and many, many more. If this is something that interests you or someone you know, do not be afraid to ask companies if they are interested in some kind of On-the-job training (OJT) program. A great way to start and get your foot in the door is by job shadowing. Most companies are very happy and eager to have young people shadow employees and it gives you an inside look at the job duties as well as the work climate. It can help you to decide if this is really a job you might want.

Often, job shadowing can lead to employment at an entry level with the option to continue to learn and work your way up.

Work based learning strategies provide career awareness, career exploration opportunities, career planning activities and help students obtain employable skills like positive work attitude, responsibility, ethics and generally help bridge the gap between learning and doing. They can be formal or informal and can include apprenticeships and internships.

Many people use the words “internship” and “apprenticeship” interchangeably, however the two are different with different kinds of experiences.

An apprenticeship provides paid on-the-job training along with classroom learning that typically spans three years. The length of the apprenticeship ensures that the training received prepares the apprentice to step into a position and become a productive employee.

A typical internship will expose students to a work environment for a short period of time and most often does not include pay or substantive work experience.

An internship is a professional learning experience that offers meaningful, practical work related to a student's field of study or career interest. An internship gives a student the opportunity for career exploration and development, and to learn new skills.

An internship enables you to gain first-hand exposure of working in the real world. It also allows students to harness the skill, knowledge, and theoretical practice they learnt in university. ... Internships provide a nice learning curve for students with little experience of the professional world.

Summer internships are about 10 to 12 weeks long, or the duration of one semester or quarter. However, internship duration can also be dictated by the length of a school break. For instance, winter internships typically take place over the course of a winter break.

Some internships are paid, and some are not. The biggest advantages of internships are exposure to careers, learning new things, and listing the experience on your resume and college application. An internship can even lead to a permanent job.

Apprenticeship is a proven education and workforce strategy that combines paid, structured on-the-job training with related, classroom learning. A youth apprenticeship is a structured, work-based learning program designed to start when apprentices are in high school. High-quality youth apprenticeship programs are built on partnerships that include employers, high schools, and providers of postsecondary education, most often a community college.

Yes, an apprenticeship is a real job! It’s also a work-based training program that includes an educational or classroom instruction component, and a hands-on paid job training component. If you are accepted into the MYAP youth apprenticeship program and hired by an employer, you will be an employee of that employer. www.ReachHighermontana.org/youthapprenticeship 

Typically CTE Programs. Montana Career Pathways, Health and Science, Business Education, Industrial Technology, Agricultural Education, Family and Consumer Science.

Benefits: Youth apprentices who successfully complete the program will receive:

  • Paid employment and mentoring from an industry professional

  • College credit from a local post-secondary institution free of charge during the apprenticeship

  • College credit that may be applied toward a degree

  • Industry recognized credential(s)

  • Paid work experience

  • Marketable skills for life

For Employers:

High-quality youth apprenticeship programs include the following four core elements:

  • Paid, on-the-job learning under the supervision of skilled employee mentors

  • Related, classroom-based instruction

  • Ongoing assessment against established skills and competency standards

  • Culmination in a portable, industry recognized credential and postsecondary credit

Youth apprenticeship is a great way to develop a pipeline of talented, engaged and loyal employees. Studies have shown that youth apprenticeship programs bring re-engagement of the current workforce, development of management pipeline and increased energy in the office. You will see positive return on investment as you shift from being consumers of talent to producers of talent!

The bottom line and takeaway is to not be afraid to ask for opportunities and be willing to possibly work to learn without a paycheck which could lead to some fantastic opportunities in the future.


Reach Higher Montana is passionate about helping Montana high school students achieve personal success in education, career, and life. Our advisors can help guide you along your individual path. To find the closest advisor to you, click here. Stay informed, sign up for our newsletter and like our Facebook and Instagram page so you don’t miss out.

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