Giving Compass' Take:

• Monica Mean explains that the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act provides an opportunity for college graduate students to understand the workplace through work-based learning programs. 

• How will collaboration between employers and higher education officials help facilitate these programs? What role can funders play in facilitating partnerships? 

• Read about why employer investment is key in career and technical education success.

While preparing students for meaningful employment is an important goal of our nation's higher education system, most employers say that students are not acquiring the right skills. Specifically, graduates are entering into the work world not knowing how to be successful in the job market, and worse, lacking key 21st-century workplace competencies, such as critical thinking and active listening.

While current employer perceptions of college graduates are not good news, they are in no way the end of the story. The reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) offers an opportunity for college grads to become more work savvy through work-based learning (WBL) experiences. This will encourage a tighter connection between higher education and employers and the attainment of key employability skills.

WBL engages students in an array of work-related activities, from informational interviews in the classroom to job shadowing and skills-specific training at the workplace.

What could Congress consider during the HEA reauthorization process as potential avenues to foster and strengthen WBL?

  • Increasing federal support, such as via competitive grants and funding to states, to boost the availability of WBL opportunities.
  • Incentivizing industry partnerships to develop effective work-based learning programs.
  • Encouraging the tracking of program outcomes.

Work-based learning's hands-on practice shows promise that it can help increase students' workplace competencies and benefit employers, who gain more qualified employees. If they were to choose to strengthen these programs, policymakers could address both employer and graduates' needs.

Read the full article about work-based learning by Monica Mean at RAND Corporation.