Work-Based Learning

What is Work-Based Learning?

Work-Based Learning Overview

Work-Based Learning (WBL) provides students with a continuum of career-related experiences that extend classroom learning to support the development of career goals in preparation for education and employment beyond high school.

WBL supports Student Success by providing students with meaningful learning experiences and multiple pathways to a high school diploma. 

FCPS students participate in different methods of Work-Based Learning for career awareness, career exploration, and career preparation experiences.

Work-Based Learning in FCPS and Common Misconceptions

Work-Based Learning is connected to:

  • Classroom Learning
  • Individual Academic and Career Plans
  • Workplace Experiences

FCPS students participate in different methods of Work-Based Learning for career awareness, career exploration, and career preparation experiences. These methods may include the following types of WBL experiences:

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Career Awareness

  • Expose student to a variety of careers and career-related training.
  • Develop an understanding of personal interests and talents relevant to career goals.

Guest Speakers

Guest Speakers are experienced professionals who enhance learning and broaden student awareness of career options and the education and training necessary for the profession.

Work Based Tours

Work Based Tours are guided opportunities to increase student choice through observations in the workplace, listening to a host, and thinking about career options.

College and Career Fairs

College and Career Fairs are career awareness activities that expose students to a wide range of careers and higher education programs.

Information Interviews

Informational Interviews are structured interactions between a student and a professional usually by phone or video conference.

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Career Exploration

  • Explore career pathways and workplace readiness skills.
  • Develop career interests.


Internships are the school-coordinated placement of students in a work environment (paid or unpaid), including Community Work Experiences (CWE), that are written into IEPs for students with disabilities. Students develop and practice career-related knowledge and skills for a specific career path.

Service Learning

Service Learning is a teaching method that involves students in authentic service to their communities. It makes connections between the classroom and the community and provides structured time for students to reflect on their experiences.


Externships provides the opportunity to be paired with professionals to explore careers and the workplace and to learn about the education and training required to succeed in a specific career. Since no work is delegated, this opportunity is an extended job shadowing experience.

Job Shadowing

Job Shadowing is a short-term career experience that places an individual student in a workplace to interact with one or more work-based representatives who host the student.

Career Mentorship

Career Mentorship is a structured, school-coordinated method that enables the student to learn about the industry and the workplace from a worker who has a record of achievement in that field. It requires student preparation and career exploration prior to the experience.

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Career Preparation

  • Engage in authentic experiences.
  • Develop skills for successful postsecondary education and employment.

Cooperative Education 

Cooperative Education combines Career and Technical Education classroom instruction with paid, planned, and supervised employment that is directly related to a specific career pathway and the student’s plan of study.

Clinical Experience

Clinical Experience is an unpaid educational experience in health services. This provides the student with an opportunity to integrate knowledge acquired in the classroom with clinical practice of the fundamental skills, behaviors, and attitudes for professional competence.

Registered Apprenticeship

Registered Apprenticeship is a method that provides adult learners with paid opportunities to develop job skills and reinforce academic instruction under the guidance of a supervisor in a specific occupational area. This results in the attainment of a nationally recognized credential.

Youth Registered Apprenticeship

Youth Registered Apprenticeship (YRA) integrates school-based and work-based learning with the skilled mentorship of teachers and journeyworker experts to develop employability and occupational skills.


Entrepreneurships provide students with opportunities to plan, implement, operate, and assume financial risks in businesses that produce goods or deliver services. This results in students developing the necessary skills to become established in their own businesses or to gain employment.

Work-Based Learning (WBL) experiences can benefit all participants involved. This educational strategy is defined for students, instructional staff members, and employers/hosts. 

Students and Parents

How do Work-Based Learning experiences benefit students?

  • Provide authentic and meaningful learning experiences which can lead to multiple pathways towards a high school diploma
  • Build professional relationships with adult role models currently in the workforce
  • Become aware of career opportunities, explore career interests, and develop the skills needed to succeed in the workplace
  • Acquire workplace skills to set individual career goals as part of each student's Academic and Career Plan 
  • Learn about "foot in the door” possibilities for future part-time, summer, or eventual full-time jobs

Why Work-Based Learning?

Work-Based Learning provides independent and collaborative learning opportunities that engage students in career-related activities that connect classroom learning to the world of work and support the development of workplace skills. Authentic learning experiences can be provided and supported in FCPS for students as early as the upper elementary years. 

Work-Based Learning is a Shared Responsibility

The following stakeholders are suggested partners in establishing successful and meaningful Work-Based Learning experiences:

  • School Administrators, to include Career and Technical Education administrators
  • Major employers and employer associations, such as the Chambers of Commerce
  • Relevant local, regional, and state Department of Labor and/or Commerce
  • Counselors
  • College and career specialists
  • Employment and transition representatives
  • Teachers
  • College representatives
  • Parents and students

Additional Information for Students and Parents about Work-Based Learning

Parents/guardians must provide consent for students to participate in work-based learning experiences that extend beyond the classroom into individual or group off-site visits. Permission for these experiences is requested through modified training agreements provided by the state to include the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (VDOLI). 

What are Work-Based Learning Training Agreements?

Training agreements are written statements signed by the student, parent/guardian, WBL school lead and employer. The agreements contain mutually agreed-upon expectations and address considerations such as employment terms, schedule, duration of work, compensation and termination. It is the most important tool providing protection to everyone involved in the experiences from accusations of negligence and liability claims. Every student must turn in a completed training agreement to be kept on file at the school for compliance. Training agreements must be completed and turned in before each work-based learning experience takes place. The training agreements also include the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (VDOLI) requirements. 

Training Agreements are required for the following Work-Based Learning experiences:

Job Shadowing, Service Learning, Career Mentorship, Externship, School-Based Enterprise, Internship, Entrepreneurship, Clinical Experience, Cooperative Education, Youth Registered Apprenticeship, Registered Apprenticeship

What are Work-Based Learning Training Plans and what experiences are they required for?

Training plans are required for internships and cooperative education experiences as some of the learning occurs in the workplace while other learning experiences occur  in the classroom. The training plan measures the job performance of the student in work-based learning experiences and is created through collaboration with the WBL School Lead, teacher, and employer. 

Instructional Staff

Through work-based learning programs, students are provided different opportunities to connect their learning to their own academic and career plan that can extend  learning past high school and into specific career pathways. 

Many of these experiences provide opportunities for students to develop and maintain relationships early on with career professionals who may share similar strengths, interests, and values with students. These relationships can develop through career mentorships that not only connect students to a potential role model for support but also allow for networking opportunities to begin as early as college and career interests evolve. 

According to the US Department of Education, any work-based learning experience must exhibit these three qualities to be successful:

  • Alignment between the classroom and the workplace
  • Application of academic, technical, and employability skills
  • Support from classroom and workplace mentors

Benefits for Teachers

  • Simulated work experiences that engage students in authentic decision-making which allows for the development of workplace skills that are transferable to future career interests. 
  • Students participate in meaningful reflections that align with their career interests as they apply classroom learning.  
  • Establish connections to professionals who could provide the necessary input on how course concepts are applied in the real world that extends past the classroom.
  • Employers can provide input and support in developing a curriculum that is relevant to the real world and apply the skills and training that the evolving workforce demands. 

Training Plans

A training plan is a document identifying the classroom instruction and workplace training that will contribute to the employability and ongoing development of a student. The training plan is a collaborative effort that takes place between the WBL School Lead, employer, and student. 

How is Work-Based Learning recorded in FCPS?

Starting with the graduating class of 2022, a new measure will be used to help determine each high school’s level of accreditation and it is called the College, Career, and Civic Readiness Index (CCCRI). This measure will examine student preparedness for college, career, and civic engagement. The formula examines student participation in advanced coursework, Career and Technical Education courses and credentialing, and work-based learning and service-learning experiences. 

Work-Based Learning experiences are recorded in High School teachers SIS Gradebooks every quarter. The following Career Exploration and Preparation experiences are reportable in the gradebook: Clinical Experience, Cooperative Education, Entrepreneurship, Externship, Internship, Job Shadow, Career Mentorship, Registered Apprenticeship, School-based Enterprise, Service Learning, Youth Registered Apprenticeship. Teachers may select one of these work-based learning experiences to be recorded in the gradebook each quarter in grades 9-12. The following experiences that can be found on the work-based learning continuum are classified under Career Awareness and are not reportable in the HS teacher SIS Gradebooks: Guest Speakers, Work-Based Tours, College and Career Fairs, and Informational Interviews.  


What does Work-Based Learning mean to Employers/Hosts?

Outside of education, work-based learning is referred to as workforce development. Though both terms can be used similarly, workforce development is a term that focuses specifically on what employers would hope to see in future employees when establishing what is commonly referred to as a talent pipeline. A talent pipeline is a workforce strategy that is used to predict and meet the needs of today’s evolving workforce. Today’s economy requires a method that connects workers to the jobs that employers are trying to fill to prevent unfilled openings where many applicants are either underqualified or don’t possess in-demand skills. 

Benefits for Employers/Hosts

  • Learn about the knowledge and skills of today's students and tomorrow's employees
  • Build positive relationships with school staff and students. Positive publicity to build  brands and favorable reputations within the local community, including thePotential for Ignite Partnerships through FCPS
  • Help create a diverse talent pipeline of better-prepared and motivated potential employees for future job openings
  • Make contacts with potential candidates for part-time, summer, or eventual full-time careers

Why Get Involved?

By supporting work-based learning opportunities in our schools you are not only giving back to the community, but also able to help encourage students to prepare for the skilled workforce that can contribute to economic development that benefits everyone in our region. You will be able to provide students several opportunities to acquire skills and qualifications aligned with current and future workforce needs. 

Establishing a Community/Business relationship with Fairfax County Public Schools

A major goal of workforce development is to place students in work-focused situations or work-based settings where careers connect to their schoolwork and they acquire the skills necessary to succeed in potential career fields. By building relationships with schools, local businesses are able to provide meaningful connections for students that can be used to learn all about potential career pathways that could lead to in-demand positions that will need to be filled in the evolving global economy. 

Depending on the community/business relationships that are created, there are times where Workforce Development Ignite Partnerships could be explored as a means that is beneficial to everyone involved. There are certain thresholds that must be met in order for a business/community partnership to be considered an Ignite Partnership. More return on investment information can be accessed through the Value Proposition for Ignite Partners.


Business and Community Groups
Minimum Number of Volunteers Participating and/or Students Served 10 volunteers or 20 or more students
Time Commitment 1 Full School Year
CEO-VP Commitment Yes
Financial Requirement Potentially


Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS)
FCPS Proposition Value Yes
Regulation Adherence Yes
Principal Approval Yes
Leadership Approval Yes

Fairfax County Public Schools seeks partners to support Work-Based Learning. Are you an industry professional or organization interested in getting involved with Work-Based Learning?