Work-based learning can provide SWFI participants with relevant work experience, tailored training and skills, and connections to potential employers before they formally enter the job market. However, work-based learning opportunities can be resource-intensive for both grantees and employers. These opportunities also require close collaboration to establish a shared understanding of how work-based learning will meet the needs of both employers and participants.

Work-based learning opportunities include on-the-job training (OJT), pre-apprenticeships, registered apprenticeships, internships, externships and co-ops, and customized training. Several SWFI grantees are pursuing work-based learning opportunities for their participants; two SWFI grantees’ experiences with work-based learning programs are described in this blog post.    

On-the-job training. Participants are trained for a job through hands-on experience with an employer, and receive direct supervision and mentoring. Employers may be reimbursed for a percentage of OJT costs.[1] The Alachua Bradford Regional Workforce Board d/b/a CareerSource (CareerSource North Central Florida) offers its entry-level, low to moderate skilled participants up to 16 weeks of on-the-job training with approved information technology employers. Depending on the employer, CareerSource North Central Florida reimburses employers for up to 90 percent of each participant’s wages using SWFI funds. CareerSource North Central Florida also developed the Work Based learning portal, which employers use to apply to CareerSource North Central Florida’s OJT program. Employers access the portal to download application forms and submit completed applications. Once enrolled in the program, employers can also access related documents and begin providing on-the-job training.

To engage employers to participate in OJT, CareerSource North Central Florida’s Business Services Team conducts monthly outreach to employers to discuss hiring needs, recruitment support, and upcoming job fairs and events. Because enrolling in OJT can be a long and confusing process for employers, CareerSource North Central Florida has held orientation sessions to introduce CareerSource North Central Florida staff, explain their roles and responsibilities, and set expectations for employers, such as the OJT timeline. CareerSource North Central Florida has also dedicated staff to work with employers on one-to-one basis after the orientation sessions to address any challenges; this direct attention has included in-person support. CareerSource North Central Florida believes that established relationships with employers and ongoing contact helped maintain employer engagement throughout the process of becoming an OJT provider. Currently ten employers are enrolled and have begun hosting SWFI participants.

Pre-apprenticeship training. This type of work-based learning prepares participants to access apprenticeships through an industry-approved learning curriculum, educational services, participating in hands-on learning experiences such as lab simulations or volunteering, and supporting participants to access apprenticeships.[2] Some employers provide both pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships.[3] Moore Community House offers pre-apprenticeship training through its Women in Construction program. Participants train for 8-12 weeks for positions in advanced manufacturing or construction. The program helps participants obtain a credential and direct experience on local work sites.

As Moore developed the Women in Construction/Mississippi Working Opportunities for Women (WinC/MS-WOW) program, staff did not have a good model for a pre-apprentice program serving a similar population, industry, or region. To gather more information, Moore conducted a comprehensive feasibility study that involved identifying programs that served women and other pre-apprenticeship programs, conducting focus groups with industry representatives and women in the community, and surveying employers to ensure the program met the needs of all stakeholders. Moore staff shared that they paid close attention to lessons learned from other programs, such as being responsive to their participants’ and employer’ needs. For example, an employer shared that they were interested in hiring individuals who were trained in the National Center for Construction Education & Research Core Curriculum, which provides basic skills and establishes the baseline skill level for additional craft professional training. So Moore Community House became certified to teach the curriculum and incorporated it into its pre-apprenticeship training. This has reduced the employer’s burden of training new hires and provided SWFI participants with a competitive advantage when searching for jobs.

The WinC/MS-WOW program has also helped SWFI participants access additional training and jobs. Through a partnership between a local community college, Ingles Ship Building, and Moore, graduates of the WinC/MS-WOW program now have the opportunity to attend a six-week training in ship fitting after graduating. The training is organized by Moore, taught by the local community college, and Ingles offers employment to those who complete the six-week training. Moore staff shared that the retention rate for this training remains high and all the women who complete the training will become employed.

In addition to the upcoming webinar on work-based learning, there are many resources available to SWFI grantees to develop these opportunities:

  • An On-The-Job Training Toolkit including a manual describing policies and procedures, a contract checklist, and frequently asked questions.
  • An example of On-The-Job Training in manufacturing. This report describes how Boeing offered OJT, retained participants, and connected participants to jobs in manufacturing.
  • A brief by the National Skills Coalition highlighting Moore Community House explores work-based learning opportunities and identifies components of successful pre-employment programs.
  • Key Takeaways from the Advanced Manufacturing Industry Expert Call summarize how the West Virginia Women Work program helps participants gain work experience through a pre-apprenticeship model, as described by Kristina Szcryrbak, Executive Director of West Virginia Women Work.
  • The Department of Labor developed a toolkit for employers that explains apprenticeship programs and how to develop them.
  • This webinar explored resources available to support the development of apprenticeships and work-based learning for Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grantees.
  • Apprenticeship resources by industry in the CoP’s Apprenticeship Community include example programs and sample materials for the programs.
  • A manual from FHI 360 on building different types of work-based learning for students and includes templates for outreach emails and tracking tools.
  • A policy toolkit on the America’s Promise CoP focuses on potential state policy changes and identifies examples of local practices to expand work-based learning opportunities.



[1] For more information about on-the-job training, visit https://www.careeronestop.org/businesscenter/trainandretain/fundingemployeetraining/on-the-job-training.aspx

[2] For more information about pre-apprenticeships, visit https://www.dol.gov/apprenticeship/toolkit/toolkitfaq.htm#1f

[3] For more information, visit https://blog.careeronestop.org/why-you-should-consider-an-apprenticeship/