Work-based Learning: We Need An Ecosystem

OCTAE is pleased to host this blog post by guest blogger: David Etzwiler, CEO, Siemens Foundation

David Etzwiler, CEO, Siemens Foundation, speaking at a podium with American flag in background

David Etzwiler, CEO, Siemens Foundation

It was an honor to take part in yesterday’s workshop on “Strengthening Work-Based Learning in Education and Transition to Career.”  For the Siemens Foundation, this is an extremely important topic, and one that we’ve recently chosen to focus on as part of our STEM Middle-Skill Initiative program.

For students, work-based learning is an underutilized method that holds the promise of opportunity and is ripe for growth.  It can help students develop essential employability skills and build a strong, positive work history.  It can also help them build an important network of peers and employers that often connect the dots between job seeker and the right position.

Companies win, too.  They have the opportunity to shape the next generation of skilled workers from an early stage and engage directly with the local education system in a meaningful way.  These experiences can also help build a positive culture in the workplace as current workers see their employer’s commitment to training and giving back to the community.

As a German company, Siemens’ roots run deep in apprenticeships, and the company has thrived from its access to the strong, skilled pipeline of workers that come from these work-based learning programs in Germany.

In the U.S., Siemens has worked to develop apprenticeships, but it’s an effort that needs a much more broad-based approach if the U.S. is going to successfully scale the model.   Like so many other efforts worth the outcome, work-based learning can require a lot of time, commitment and resources.

That’s why the Siemens Foundation is proud to have taken part in the important conversations at this week’s conference.  Embedding work-based learning throughout our education systems will require sustained efforts from government, companies and educators working together.  Simply put, we need an “ecosystem” of public and private partnerships for work-based learning to thrive in the U.S.

Our current efforts with the National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices  and the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program represent just a couple of the ways that we’re working toward that goal.

We’re proud to join the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Labor, the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development and others to support work-based learning and look forward to a time when students and employers everywhere have the opportunity to experience it firsthand.