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Work-Based Learning in Business Education

Instructor: Todd Sankovich
After completing this lesson, you should have an understanding of work-based learning and its impact on business education. More importantly, you should be able to better identify work-based learning opportunities.

What Is Work-Based Learning?

Think back to a time when you were sitting in class listening to your teacher ramble on about some really boring concept and you asked yourself, ''When will I ever use this in the real world''?

Has this ever happened to you? I know it has for me - several times! Work-based learning is awesome because it eliminates this problem!

Work-based learning is learning within an organization while actually completing the tasks associated with the career you are interested in pursuing. Pretty cool, huh?

How Is Work-Based Learning Impacting Business Education?

Work-based learning in the business world is beneficial to both students and companies. The student benefits because he or she gets to actually learn on the job. It is much easier to decide if a career is a good fit when you are actually working in that career.

The business benefits because they help train their own workforce. Many businesses actually end up hiring students into full-time roles based on their performance during a work-based learning assignment.

Different Work-Based Learning Opportunities in the Business World

Let me start with my favorite - the internship - well, that's not actually my favorite. My real favorite is the paid internship! With an internship, you get formal work experience with a company of your choosing for a pre-determined length of time. Think of this as on the job training. You have responsibilities of your own to complete as you are learning how to accomplish the work within the company. Often, if it works out, you will have the opportunity to continue in a role with the company. If it doesn't work out, you've only lost a few months learning it wasn't the right fit instead of four or more years in a classroom.

Internships are very popular with undergraduate business students. Much of this is due to universities seeking them out for their students. Even better, businesses commonly set up internships as a way to identify talent for full-time employment.

Another option is a practicum which is like an internship but is normally associated with a college course designed to give you practical, supervised experience in the field you are studying. You will often find a practicum required at the end of a certification class, such as teaching English as a foreign language.

An apprenticeship is another work-based learning opportunity. In an apprenticeship, you work with one expert in a field to learn a skill. Often times, you will hear of apprenticeships with blue collar tradespeople, such as plumbers or electricians. They also exist in the business world, think Donald Trump, and are typically paid positions. The key to remember here, is you are working with one expert who is teaching you how they accomplish the work with the expectation that you complete the work exactly the way they do. Normally, this will be in a specific area of business, such as administration, information technology or marketing, within a company.

Other less formal, usually non-paid options include:

Volunteering - sounds just like it is... you volunteer to help out. Because it is less formal, you may have to be a little more creative to turn the volunteering into a work opportunity.

Mentorship - is like an apprenticeship where you work with one person. The difference in a mentorship is your mentor is simply providing guidance to your work as opposed to showing you exactly how to accomplish each task as in an apprenticeship. Again, this is typically less formal, without pay and may require a little more creativity on your part to turn this into a career.

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