Employer's Guide to Work-Based Learning

Getting Started With Work-Based Learning

While internships are an important component of work-based learning, they are just one of the work-based learning strategies currently being used to expand, diversify, train, and educate the workforce you need.

Employers who want to participate in work-based learning typically:

  • Provide either paid or unpaid internships with on-the-job training that is connected to students' programs of study.*
  • Mentor students to help them understand work expectations and culture
  • Provide presentations and onsite experiences to build awareness of occupations
  • Have an opportunity to spot and recruit talent with desired skills and knowledge
  • Enjoy increased productivity from new hires prepared to succeed from day one

*Students and employers both benefit more from paid than unpaid internships.

Making a Measurable Impact

Our framework is designed to measure the impact of work-based learning on employment outcomes using data and metrics to see if there's a measurable difference for students who have had work-based learning compared to those who have not. Our intent going forward is to track the following metrics for those two groups:

  • Completion of certification or degree program
  • Employment
  • Retention
  • Wages

If you're interested in contributing to this research, please contact us.

Four Models of Work-Based Learning

Here are the four models for work-based learning supported in the new framework.

Schools and colleges depend on employers who can commit to providing projects, research, and shorter-term opportunities that allow learners to experience work. In this model, employers who provide those opportunities often serve as part of the learning assessment process – which includes sharing standards of professionalism and work product expectations. You or another volunteer from your organization may also be asked to provide direct feedback to learners or serve as judges for competitions.

Includes: Service learning, coops/project-based activities, and applied research.

Employers can play a key role in helping learners develop an understanding of work culture and expectations. The Learning Through Work model gives students the opportunity to apply skills and knowledge learned in the classroom as they participate in critical roles that develop them for their job or career. Learners ideally experience everything from being part of a work team, planning for work and productivity, managing time and problem-solving to applying creativity within a work setting, and more.

While this model often requires a significant investment of time and resources from employers — it also provides significant benefits, including informed recruiting for permanent positions and productivity from the highly motivated individuals currently learning through work.

To ensure equitable access to opportunities, it is HIGHLY recommended that Learning through Work be paid opportunities, including internships, pre-apprenticeships, and other apprentice-type experiences.

Includes: School-based enterprises, pre-apprenticeship/work-based training, industry certification programs and internship/externships.

In this model, employers plan and direct the learning experience – while schools, colleges, and other training providers play a support role.

By their nature, these are paid learning experiences where learners serve as fully productive workers while they gain increasing skills and specialization. Supplemental classroom/laboratory instruction is also included as well as some level of on-the-job training to support formal education.

Employers generally take the lead in determining the topics or skills areas for instruction. Documentation of learning in this model is key to ensuring that employees are able to transfer learning towards future credentials and industry certifications.

Includes: On the job training for adult learners, Minnesota Dual-Training Pipeline and Registered Apprenticeships. 

Are you interested in learning more about or participating in a work-based learning program at Minnesota State?


Contact Us

Whether you are looking for training for your workforce, help connecting to industry experts, or any other need, our trained support staff is available to answer your questions and connect you with resources. 

Live chat, email questions, or call us to connect to solutions for your workforce. We look forward to assisting you! 

Toll-free: 833-905-WORK
Metro: +1-651-556-8451
MN Relay: 800-627-3529