Work-Based Learning: A Promising Strategy for Re-engaging Opportunity Youth

For nearly a decade, the U. S. has partnered with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to conduct reviews of various issues pertaining to career and technical education (CTE). Our efforts with OECD have enabled us to benchmark ourselves against other countries, as well as learn about international policies and practices that we might consider to improve the educational and employment outcomes for our nation’s youth and adults.

Building on our prior work, in July 2015, we again partnered with OECD—this time, on the topic of work-based learning. We were interested in this topic because we acknowledge the importance and promise of work-based learning as a way to re-engage youth, equip them with the skills that are in demand in the labor market, and connect them to potential employers.

The benefits of work-based learning are particularly important for at-risk youth as these individuals are most likely to face difficulties in connecting to the labor market and accessing good learning opportunities. At-risk youth are defined as young people who are not—or are at risk of not—working or being in school. In the U. S., there are roughly 5.5 million teenagers and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither working nor in school. This translates to one in seven teens and young adults. In OECD countries, there are around 40 million at risk youth. These numbers, while incredibly discouraging, present a tremendous opportunity for retooling our nation’s CTE programs and scaling up promising practices such as work-based learning to address the needs of our nation’s most vulnerable students.

OECD’s work-based learning project was designed for three purposes:

  1. Synthesize the evidence on how the benefits of work-based learning might be more fully exploited to achieve better economic and social outcomes;
  2. Document global experience of developments and innovations in policy and practice; and
  3. Deliver key policy messages on those foundations.

Eight other countries participated in the study—Australia, Canada, the European Commission, Germany, Norway, Scotland, Switzerland, the United Kingdom.

On December 7, 2016, the OECD reported the results of their U. S. review, as documented in Work-Based Learning for Youth at Risk: Getting Employers on Board. The report identifies a number of policy recommendations including encouraging and offering financial resources for pre-apprenticeships; providing remediation, mentoring, and coaching to support apprentices complete their training; and offering targeted training for apprenticeship supervisors to help them succeed. The full report can be found in the OECD iLibrary.

To further help employers work with youth, the Department released Employability Skills Fact Sheet and Resources: Supporting Opportunity Youth to Be Successful in Their First Job. This fact sheet outlines five easy steps that employers can take to help youth gain employability skills that employers are looking for and that are necessary for youth to be successful in the labor market at all levels and in all sectors. The Fact Sheet is available on the Perkins Collaborative Resource Network.

Posted by
Director, Division of Academic and Technical Education

Presidential Scholars in CTE announced

In a historic moment for our nation’s career and technical education (CTE) community, Secretary of Education, John B. King issued a press release yesterday to announce the 52nd class of U. S. Presidential Scholars, including an inaugural 20 students in CTE.

The inaugural CTE students are:

  • Tanusri V. Balla, Academy of Information Technology, Stamford, Connecticut
  • Sierra R. Day, Cerro Gordo High School, Cerro Gordo, Illinois
  • Samantha N. Dorwin, Charles H. McCann Technical School, North Adams, Massachusetts
  • Jose L. Espinel, Alan C. Pope High School, Roswell, Georgia
  • Joseph A. Fujinami, Mililani High School, Mililani, Hawaii
  • Makayla Hendricks, Bountiful High School, Bountiful, Utah
  • Carter M. Jones, Southern Wayne High School, Mount Olive, North Carolina
  • Madison Largey, Central Kitsap High School, Silverdale, Washington
  • Jordan Lee, Nettleton High School, Jonesboro, Arkansas
  • Alyssa M. McGee, Sumner High School, Sumner, Washington
  • Brent R. Miller, Lyons-Decatur Northeast School, Lyons, Nebraska
  • Marlie A. Montandon, Warren County High School, McMinnville, Tennessee
  • Madeline P. Poole, Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, Chicago, Illinois
  • Mohammad H. Rahim, Carl Wunsche Sr. High School, Spring, Texas
  • Nicholas M. Santangelo, Marriotts Ridge High School, Woodstock, Maryland
  • Kendra L. Spier, Cambridge Senior High School, Cambridge, Wisconsin
  • Meghna S. Sreenivas, Reservoir High School, Fulton, Maryland
  • Mackenzie R. Wooten, Northwest Career and Technical Academy, Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Norman Xiong, Severna Park Senior High School, Severna Park, Maryland
  • Mindy S. Young, Coldwater Senior High School, Coldwater, Michigan

The Presidential Scholars program was established in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson to honor high school seniors for their academic success, leadership, and service to school and community. The program was expanded in 1979 to recognize students in the visual, creative, and performing arts.


Having the White House recognize that CTE students are performing at a level worthy of recognition as U. S. Presidential Scholars is a testament to the commitment to quality and rigor of CTE programs being delivered by teachers, administrators, business and industry leaders, and other key stakeholders all across the country.

—Johan E. Uvin, Deputy Assistant Secretary, OCTAE

In 2015, the White House announced that students in Career and Technical Education would also be recognized for this esteemed honor. Students were selected through a rigorous process that began with open nominations. The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars reviewed the applications and selected the students who demonstrated the highest level of accomplishment and commitment to their education.

The 20 U. S. Presidential Scholars in CTE will be honored alongside the other 140 members of the 52nd class of scholars in a ceremony on June 19, 2016, in Washington, DC. During the ceremony, each honoree will receive a Presidential Scholar Medallion.

We extend our congratulations to each of these students and wish them all the best for future success.

Posted by
Director, Division of Academic and Technical Education, OCTAE