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National Center on Secondary Education and Transition: Creating opportunities for youth with disabilities to achieve successful futures.

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Work-based Learning

This topic explores the benefits of providing youth with opportunities to learn at job sites in their communities through the use of internships, workplace mentoring, service learning, and other strategies.


Work-based learning offers youth meaningful and engaging educational opportunities by connecting classroom learning to learning on job sites in the community. This kind of learning experience can help youth make career decisions, network with potential employers, select courses of study, and develop skills relevant to future employment. Through the interaction of work and study experiences, students who participate in work-based learning can strengthen their academic knowledge, personal development, and professional preparation.

Research has documented the importance of work-based learning experiences. Studies show that students who participate in work-based learning experience an increase in the completion of related coursework, improved attendance, and higher graduation rates (Colley & Jamison, 1998). Work-based learning during secondary school also leads to greater success in adult employment for all categories of disability (Luecking & Fabian, 2000). In addition, youth with disabilities who participate in work-based learning have more successful postschool outcomes, including maintaining employment and pursuing postsecondary education and training.

Although work-based learning activities vary from school to school, research has shown that they are a best practice to improve high school outcomes for youth with disabilities. In fact, several federal policies support the implementation of work-based learning, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Adult Education Act.



Colley, D. A., & Jamison, D. (1998). Postschool results for youth with disabilities: Key indicators and policy implications. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 21(2), 145-60.

Luecking, R. G., & Fabian, E. S. (2000). Paid internships and employment success for youth in transition. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 23(2), 205-21.

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National Center on Secondary Education and Transition
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This page was last updated on January 12, 2022.