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The Role of Work-Based Learning in Preparing Students for College and a Career


Mary Lou Erlacher, Director of Workplace Learning Connection, Kirkwood Community College (Cedar Rapids, IA)
Lisa Gillis, Chief Academic Officer, Junior Achievement USA
Jayne Salinger, Director of Special Projects, Bar Association of San Francisco
Bob Wise, President, Alliance for Excellent Education

The Alliance for Excellent Education held a webinar to learn about work-based learning opportunities and how they can better prepare students for postsecondary learning and a successful career.

Work-based learning is gaining attention among policymakers and practitioners as an effective strategy for linking education and workforce development, both in and out of the classroom and school walls. Panelists shared examples from a continuum of work-based learning opportunities that include helping a student become aware of the different career options available in a twenty-first-century economy; exploring career options that are of interest to a student; applying academic, technical, and workplace skills in real-world situations; and training for specific occupations or postsecondary learning experiences. Panelists also discussed the range of stakeholders involved in providing work-based learning opportunities, the different settings where it can occur, and ways that technology is helping to advance the career-focused experiences of students worldwide. Panelists also touched upon obstacles and barriers to providing high-quality work-based learning experiences.

Bob Wise, president of the Alliance and former governor of West Virginia, moderated a conversation with three work-based learning experts. Mary Lou Erlacher is director of Workplace Learning Connections at Kirkwood Community College, which among other things operates a reversed work-based learning program in rural Iowa. Lisa Gillis is chief academic officer with Junior Achievement USA, which uses experiential learning to foster work-readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy skills in students in grades K–12. Jayne Salinger is director of special projects at the Bar Association of San Francisco, which supports various work-based learning programs through its Justice and Diversity Center, such as mock trials, legal-themed projects, and a law-themed high school in the San Francisco area.

Supplemental Material

Support for this webinar is provided in part by the James Irvine Foundation.

The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington, DC-based national policy and advocacy organization that works to improve national and federal policy so that all students can achieve at high academic levels and graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship in the twenty-first century. For more information about the Alliance, visit

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