WORK BASED LEARNING IN CALIFORNIA COMMUNITY COLLEGES
Career technical education (CTE), labeled career education by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO) in July 2017,1 has been given a boost in recent years by legislation and funding intended to support efforts to close both the skills gap and employment gaps anticipated in California’s future. While classroom instruction is a critical component of programs that prepare students for the general and job-specific demands of occupations, work-based learning is equally critical.
Work-based learning provides students an opportunity as aspiring employees to explore careers and to turn theory and simulation into practice by gaining on-the-job experience. The hands-on experience gained from work-based learning opportunities, especially when considered in combination with the attainment and application of employment soft skills, is a critical component of career training and preparation. Students completing CTE programs with work-based learning embedded are well-equipped to enter the workforce.
Work-based learning is a critical element of community college instructional programs and student preparation for the world of work. However, much confusion can exist over types of work-based learning, particularly with the terms used as identifiers. To understand the various forms of work-based learning, one must examine the intent and guiding principles of each along with applicable statutes and regulations, funding, and responsibilities of stakeholders.
Internship is a broad term for work-based learning opportunities. No regulations specific to internship in the California Community Colleges exist, but when combined with other factors, an internship may involve cooperative work experience, apprenticeship, clinical or practicum, a preceptorship, or other forms of more regulated work-based learning.
When an internship or work-based learning opportunity is combined with elements of an educational partnership among an instructor, an employer, and a student, the arrangement is identified as cooperative work experience within the California Community College System. Such agreements include identification of learning objectives, student receipt of credits for the experience, and supportive mentoring to assist the student in achieving identified goals.
When an internship or work-based learning opportunity is coordinated by a program sponsor who is an employer or trade-related or labor-related organization, with or without the involvement of a California community college, and is compliant with all applicable regulations, it is an apprenticeship.
When an internship or work-based learning opportunity is combined with the progressive application of skills and theory to practice under the supervision of a qualified instructor as part of an approved credit or noncredit curriculum, it is a clinical or practicum experience.
Recommendations for Board of Governors
- Given the emphasis on Strong Work Force, adult education, and Guided Pathways within the California Community Colleges System, the California Community Colleges Board of Governors should rely upon the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges to work with the Chancellor’s Office, the California Internship and Work Experience Association (CIWEA), and other stakeholders to implement noncredit alternatives to cooperative work experience education opportunities.
- The California Community Colleges Board of Governors should revise Title 5 to facilitate expansion of occupational cooperative work experience eligibility from CTE TOP codes alone to all TOP codes, given that all programs are preparing students for careers and all students could benefit from program-specific cooperative work experience opportunities.
Recommendations for ASCCC
- The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges should work with the Chancellor’s Office and other stakeholders to assist colleges in recognizing the similarities and differences among types of work-based learning and to employ a common language and understanding of the applications of work-based learning within the California Community College System.
- The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges should work with the Chancellor’s Office and other stakeholders to provide more information about apprenticeship in California community colleges, including what structures and agreements are necessary to initiate apprenticeship agreements and instruction in collaboration with employers or labor groups.
- The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, together with CIWEA, should disseminate information regarding the importance of work-based learning in students’ preparation for work and regarding effective practices for incorporating work-based learning into local programs.