It’s a pressing conversation growing in urgency in Hartford and across Connecticut, as more employers seek ways to create the robust talent pipeline needed to fill vacant positions.
One promising talent development strategy involves educators, community-based organizations, and employers collaborating to create better and more opportunities for high school students to engage in work-based learning — an integration of classroom training with real-world work experiences. Developing quality activities that link work and learning helps ensure students have the skills and key training they need to compete in post-secondary education and the workforce.
While pockets of work-based learning opportunities exist for Hartford students, the experiences for both students and employers are sometimes disparate, disconnected, and disappointing for both.
Some employers have expressed concern about students who lack the necessary work readiness skills and some students note the employer’s lack of capacity to create meaningful job tasks that build career skills. Additionally, students don’t always see the connections from classroom to work.
A Network Can Help
To build city-wide collective action around work-based learning for students, the ALL IN! Coalition and Capital Workforce Partners convened the Work-Based Learning Network first with those community-based providers in charge of placing and supporting students in internships. The first members to join include:
- Blue Hills Civic Association
- Center for Latino Progress
- Jr. Apprentice
- City of Hartford
- Hartford Public Schools
Members got to work discussing a set of uniform competencies that all could agree will help ensure foundational skills are built across all work-based learning activities. Now, nearing completion is the toolkit for providers, schools and employers that lays out those competencies and how to assess them, to be piloted this summer through the Summer Youth Employment and Learning Program (SYELP).
Developing the talent of the future and closing equity gaps for Hartford students will depend on strong work-based learning programming that can help students not only identify a career path but be ready to pursue it through post-secondary education and training. Ultimately, it’s how we will achieve a thriving regional economy and better communities for all.
We look forward to sharing more about this work as it develops and encourage our partners and colleagues to join us.