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Aurora Institute Calls for Federal Policy to Advance Work-Based Learning

In a new report titled “Expanding Student Access to Work-Based Learning: Federal Policy Recommendations,” education research organization Aurora Institute calls for policy-makers to “let go of the notion that education has to be a linear, time-bound sequence of learning that occurs only within formal education institutions.”

Instead, the Department of Education (ED) and other governmental arms should develop policies that view education as an “ecosystem” of cooperation and alignment across pre-K–12, career technical education, college/university, workforce, and community sectors. If the feds lead this effort, the report advises, state and local educational efforts to meet critical work skills needs will no longer be roadblocked.

The report notes there is bipartisan support for work-based learning, as outlined in a 2019 ED federal notice supporting apprenticeships, internships, and other opportunities. These can benefit students with Pell grant eligibility if a part of their work-based learning wages are Federal Work Study wages, and benefit employers by sharing the employment cost of apprenticeship programs.

The Aurora report’s key recommendations at the federal level are to:

  • Institute a federal cross-agency program and fund it with grants to promote work-based learning awareness and opportunities from pre-K level and up;

  • Increase federal innovation grants to states and organizations to encourage access to and incentivize work-based learning opportunities, including funding training for educators and other work-based learning providers;

  • Make intermediary organizations eligible for federal funding to support work-based learning partnerships across state, regional, and local entities;

  • Allow more flexibility in funding to allow resources to be simplified, combined and blended; and

  • Redesign accountability reporting to be reciprocal for elementary and secondary frameworks, as well as family, community, and workforce input to help integrate work-based learning and career exploration.

There are also recommendations for states to implement or build upon the foregoing, with federal support.

“In the context of rapid change in education and the workforce, policy makers need to take a long view on the future of education and work,” the report concludes. “The system needs to be reorganized to build knowledge and skills in the midst of changing trends, with more aligned structures, incentives, and supports for learner-centered pathways.”

The report is available on this Aurora Institute page.

About the Author

Kate Lucariello is a former newspaper editor, EAST Lab high school teacher and college English teacher.

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