Employer Involvement in Work-Based Learning Programs

Employer Involvement in Work-Based Learning Programs

Nov 1999


Thomas Bailey
Katherine Hughes
Institute on Education and the Economy 
Teachers College, Columbia University

Executive Summary:

The 1994 School-to-Work Opportunities Act was passed by Congress with bipartisan support as a result of concern over the preparedness of American youth for the changing world of work. The legislation calls for work-based learning to be available to all students. There has been debate over whether sufficient numbers of employers can be recruited to create a national school-to-work system with a substantial work-based learning component. Recent research on the question has had mixed results. This paper reports on findings from a three-year research project focused on this question. The study consisted of (1) case studies of twelve work-based learning programs at nine different sites, located in both urban and rural areas; (2) a survey of employers participating in five of the programs; and (3) a survey of a comparison group of nonparticipating employers in those same labor markets.

Three of the twelve programs had more difficulty recruiting students than employers. In fact, two have ceased to operate because of a lack of student enrollment. Five of the programs experienced difficulty securing large numbers of employers to provide work-based learning placements. In those programs, interested students were being turned away or had to wait for a placement. Nonetheless, even though staff were still working to build a larger base of participating employers, these programs achieved wide acceptance in their respective communities, and they were successfully placing students in work-based learning positions. The final four programs were characterized by steady student demand and, if not high employer recruitment, then high employer retention. The longevity and relatively large size of these four programs demonstrates that, over time, programs can gain a reputation for benefiting both students and employers, and can become successful at recruiting both.


Bailey, T., & Hughes, K. (1999, November). Employer involvement in work-based learning programs. Berkeley, CA: National Center for Research in Vocational Education.