5 Common Challenges to Scaling a Robust Work-Based Learning Program

Work-based learning is a critical part of transforming students’ college, career and life readiness. As socioeconomic gaps widen and students face increasing pressure to accumulate relevant internship experiences as early as possible, schools and CTE centers need to provide robust, comprehensive work-based learning opportunities that will enable their students to build their resumes, grow their professional skill sets, explore various career paths and plan for post-graduation success.

Work-based learning programs should be accessible to all students at all stages of their education journeys (see our earlier post about the work-based learning continuum), but scaling these platforms while continuing to ensure high-quality, rigorous experiences can pose a major challenge.

CTE directors are usually beholden to a variety of stakeholders, including students, business partners, intermediaries, program administrators, superintendents, and state and federal agencies. To scale a program, these stakeholders need to work together in complex ways. Our CTE experts have compiled a list of some of the most common challenges of scaling the workplace learning, or internship, component of a program. If these issues are ones that you and your district face, stay tuned for future blog posts about how to address them and scale your program effectively.

#1: Excessive paperwork

A huge percentage of programs are still managed on paper, providing administrators with very little visibility and making it very difficult to scale. Robust workplace learning programs often need to manage hundreds if not thousands of students across dozens of work sites. As a result, program managers can get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of paperwork required, and spend their time filling out countless duplicate forms rather than providing rich resources for students and business partners.

#2: Lack of time

It’s a safe bet that any educator or administrator, at any time, has more to do than they have available hours in the day. Because of this, it can be easy to let important aspects of a workplace learning program be pushed to the bottom of the priority list. A CTE director may be able to maintain their existing network of community partners–but not find the time to grow the list and make new opportunities available for students. 

Effectively scaling workplace learning means creating efficiencies for the business partner and administrator, by automating employer communication and streamlining state and federal reporting.

#3: Inconsistent processes

One of the biggest pitfalls to growth is doing the same thing in different ways. Scaling is not about reinventing the wheel–it’s about developing consistent internal processes for every step of the experiential learning journey and making sure students and staff are well-trained on those processes.

#4: Not enough business partners

Workplace learning initiatives can quickly stagnate unless they consistently provide new and relevant internship opportunities for participants. Not all business partners will immediately provide experiences for your students. There are a variety of entry points for prospective business partners–maybe they start with a shadow day, or an employer event at your school. To scale, CTE directors need to keep track of all these employer prospects and nurture the relationships until they’re ready for the next step.

#5: Tracking completion and reporting

Work-based learning programs provide immense value to students. But the only way to prove that value and secure future funding is by data tracking and reporting. Administrators need quick, user-friendly, efficient ways to pull reports and track usage data–sometimes even down to the microlevel of individual students. This can make their jobs easier when it’s time to apply for Perkins V grant funds or report on how those funds were used. And of course, the more students participating in the program, the more time and energy this can take unless a scalable software solution is in place.

About Transeo Jobs

We created our best-in-class Jobs platform directly to address these challenges. Learn more here, and stay tuned in the coming weeks for step-by-step blog posts on how to scale your workplace learning program.