Employment and Jobs

Unpacking the Work of Work-Based Learning

February 22, 2021  • Vivian Vázquez & Ranita Jain

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America’s youngest workers, particularly young adults of color, are facing the most dire employment prospects since the Great Depression. As our nation looks toward recovery, and policymakers and investors seek strategies to build stronger connections to economic opportunity for young workers of color, we’d like to highlight the promise of work-based learning (WBL) opportunities:

  1. WBL can help young adults of color get the experience, education, credentials, and relationships necessary to succeed in the workforce, now and in the future.
  2. WBL can provide young adults of color an entry point into jobs in industries where they have been historically underrepresented. WBL can provide opportunities for young adults to demonstrate their value and abilities to employers and to change biases around hiring and career advancement.

In this research report, we describe how four organizations involved with the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Generation Work initiative engage with young adults and employers to design and manage WBL opportunities.

Read “Unpacking the Work of Work-Based Learning” to learn about the behind-the-scenes programming and relationship-building work that practitioners engage in with employers. We describe how practitioners have tailored their programs to meet the needs of young adults of color and to support employers in their work to develop, structure, and support WBL opportunities.

We are grateful to the following organizations, who partnered with us throughout research and development of this report.

  • Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC), Seattle
  • District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund Philadelphia
  • Goodwill of Central and Southern Indiana, Indianapolis
  • PowerCorpsPHL, Philadelphia

This research would not have been possible without the thoughts and reflections of leadership and staff, as well as valuable input from the young adults and employers who participate in the organizations’ WBL programs.


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Report: “Unpacking the Work of #WorkBasedLearning” by @RanitaJain1 and @VivianPVazquez of @AspenWorkforce. Featuring insights from @AJACtraining, @1199CTraining, @GoodwillIndy, and @PowerCorpsPHL, organizations in @AECFNews’ #GenWork initiative.

As policymakers and investors seek strategies to build stronger connections to economic opportunity for young workers of color, let’s highlight the promise of #WorkBasedLearning.

Young adults face their most dire employment prospects since the Great Depression—let’s change that. #WorkBasedLearning can connect them with caring adults, safe work environments, and opportunities to learn at work.

#WorkBasedLearning can help young adults of color get the experience, education, credentials, and relationships necessary to succeed in the workforce, now and into the future.

#WorkBasedLearning can give young adults of color an entry point into industries where they have been historically underrepresented and allow them to demonstrate their value and abilities to employers.

In this report, @RanitaJain1 & @VivianPVazquez describe how practitioners in @AECFNews’ #GenWork initiative—@AJACtraining, @1199CTraining, @GoodwillIndy, & @PowerCorpsPHL—work with young adults & employers to create #WorkBasedLearning opportunities.


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The Economic Opportunities Program advances strategies, policies, and ideas to help low- and moderate-income people thrive in a changing economy. Follow us on social media and join our mailing list to stay up-to-date on publications, blog posts, events, and other announcements.