Designing Equity-Minded Work-Based Learning Opportunities for Community College Students

October 3, 2022

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Title: What Everyone Should Know about Designing Equity-Minded Paid Work-Based Learning Opportunities for College Students

Author: Mauriell H. Amechi

Source: New America

Community college students often find themselves excluded from participating in work-based learning (WBL) opportunities, which can be crucial for future employability. In a new report, New America showcases how five community colleges center equity in redesigning WBL to be more accessible and work for all students.

The report defines WBL as, “any activity in a work setting–whether paid or unpaid–that equips youth and young adults with in-depth, firsthand experience and authentic engagement with the tasks required in a given field.” WBL activities are often inaccessible to community college students, who tend to be working adult learners. Participation in WBL activities could also affect one’s ability to meet basic needs and might result in additional expenses such as transportation or childcare costs.

Among the findings:

  1. Incorporating proactive advising strategies and providing wrap-around services (e.g., bulk course enrollment, flexible course schedule, regular check-ins) improves retention.
  2. Providing paid opportunities with competitive wages and additional financial support (e.g., childcare and transportation vouchers) alleviates financial barriers to student participation.
  3. Increasing the number of professional staff expands WBL program capacity and facilitates individualized support.
  4. Conducting regular program evaluations capture student outcomes and can justify funding.
  5. Securing reliable funding through industry partnerships, corporate sponsorship, state or local government, or the institution is essential.

The report concludes with recommendations for institutions and policymakers to facilitate equitable WBL:

  • Center the institution’s unique student population in the design and implementation of WBL.
  • Create a culture of assessment to promote accountability, improvement, and institutional support.
  • Consider students’ basic needs in compensation packages by guaranteeing a base hourly salary and a set number of weekly hours and providing transportation and childcare vouchers.
  • Increase institutional commitment and financial support to maintain program quality while expanding access and serving more students.

To read the full report, click here.

—Alyssa Stefanese Yates

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