One of the most rewarding aspects of working with teens and young adults is helping them develop skills and discover career interests.
When you decided to provide a youth job or internship, you chose to make a difference by investing in the future of the youth you’re working with.
Your investment will strengthen your business as well as the Massachusetts workforce as a whole.
But, most importantly, your investment of time and your commitment to providing this opportunity changes the future of the young person you’ve chosen to support.
Here’s why: by helping develop the skills of students, you’re training them to be more successful throughout their entire lives.
You’re leveraging the power of business, in partnership with public education, to train tomorrow’s workforce—that’s the great part of what you’re doing—and this includes contributing to the development of your own workforce now and in the future. You’re joining a group of thousands of Massachusetts employers who are actively structuring student work experiences by doing so.
Students in well-structured job and internship experiences learn what it’s like to work in a professional environment and make positive contributions to the work of their employer.
They learn about their own skills and the skills they want to acquire for the future. They gain insight into the educational and career goals they’ll need to pursue to be successful.
The proven tool that we use for creating these well-structured workplace experiences is the Massachusetts Work-Based Learning Plan. This tool has been developed and supported over many years by the state’s Connecting Activities initiative, and you can learn more about that at massconnecting.org.
The Work-Based Learning Plan is easy to use. It’s based on a simple workplace evaluation geared towards the specific developmental needs of teens and young adults. It serves as a diagnostic, goal-setting, and evaluation tool all in one.
This video shows you how to best use this tool for your own benefit, and for the benefit of the student you’ve chosen to guide.
The Work-Based Learning Plan shows youth the skills they need to perform successfully in the workplace, it gives supervisors the means to assess how youth are performing, and—most critically—it provides a vehicle to talk about next steps for growth.
The Work-Based Learning Plan is available in three formats—paper, online, and a mobile version.
The plan is made up of the following sections:
First, a job description.
Second, a list of skills and tasks required to meet quality performance standards on the job. The list of skills includes basic foundation skills relevant to all jobs, plus some career- and workplace skills specific to the experience the youth will have at your worksite.
Next, there are two reviews.
The first review is conducted early in the placement and provides a baseline.
The second review is conducted toward the end of the job or internship experience.
The most important thing to understand about the Work-Based Learning Plan is that its value is in opening up the conversation about work for the young person.
Each review might be just a short conversation, but it’s valuable because it provides a structured opportunity for clear communication, feedback, reflection, and goal setting.
Let’s look a little more closely at how this can happen.
Kirby (as voiceover):
The first two parts—the job description, followed by identification of skills and tasks—should take place at the very start of the youth’s internship or job placement.
For many young people in youth jobs and internships, this may very well be their first professional work experience.
By taking time to clearly identify the types of responsibilities and tasks required of a given position, you have the ability to communicate in concrete terms exactly what’s expected of the student to achieve success.
In many youth employment programs, program staff can provide examples of job descriptions. If needed, they can help finalize the descriptions.
Here’s an example of a job description for a retail sales position.
Kirby (as voiceover):
Youth will greet customers and determine what each customer wants or needs. Exchange merchandise for customers and accept returns. Help customers try on or fit merchandise. Maintain knowledge of current sales and promotions, policies regarding payment and exchanges, and security practices. Operate a cash register, maintain records related to sales. Clean shelves, counters, and tables, and help present new merchandise.
The next important piece is to review the foundation skills included in the Work-Based Learning Plan.
You’ll recognize these foundation skills as lifelong skills relevant to every kind of job. There are 8 foundation skills in the Plan, including those related to work ethic and professionalism like attendance, punctuality, and workplace appearance, as well as more advanced competencies related to communication and interpersonal skills like speaking, listening, and interacting with others.
When you talk over these skills with the young person, it’s an opportunity for you to share tips specific to your workplace about attendance policies, dress codes, workplace culture or communication that help set expectations.
After this step, identify specific workplace and career skills and their related tasks.
These may include broad skills relevant to your workplace, such as customer service, creativity, or project management.
Or, this may include more specific career skills such as those found in accounting, carpentry, childcare or graphic design.
For example, let’s look at customer service.
Enter the workplace or career skill in the box to the left, and then take a moment to describe exactly what tasks might be part of demonstrating this specific skill.
You might think this is self-explanatory, but to a student, what customer service means might not be self-evident. In the space to the right, describe what customer service means in the specific role the student will be playing.
Here’s an example:
“Smile and greet all customers when they enter the store or your section. Tell customers you’re there to help. If a customer asks the location of an item, walk them to the location in the store and show them rather than just telling them where the item can be found. If there’s a problem, assure the customer you’ll try to help solve it. If you can’t, or if the customer has a complaint, bring them to the manager.”
Talking about these skills with youth is a great teaching and learning moment. It’s an opportunity to show your young adult that the same skills that make you successful can also be building blocks for them.
The Work-Based Learning Plan has been used by thousands of employers across Massachusetts. They’ve contributed sample job descriptions, as well as examples of skills and tasks, from a variety of youth work experiences. Over 80,000 youth have been evaluated using the Plan since its advent.
The program coordinator for your youth employment program should be able to provide examples and help write this section. You can also take a look at some examples on the massconnecting.org website.
The next part of the Work-Based Learning Plan is the initial review.
This review should take place early in the work experience because it establishes a baseline of performance and skills for the student.
The key to effectiveness of the Work-Based Learning Plan comes into play right here.
It’s essential that employers give honest feedback. Youth welcome constructive—and accurate—comments about their abilities.
An accurate first review further establishes the professional relationship between the intern and the employer. It also identifies for the student, realistically, that there’s room to grow.
There’s a performance guide built into the online and mobile versions that helps with this review, and a paper version of that guide can be downloaded from the Connecting Activities website, massconnecting.org.
We also have lots of tips for providing good feedback and launching good conversations about goals and next steps.
The final part of the Work-Based Learning Plan is the last review. This should come near the end of the internship.
Just as with the first review, it’s critical that employers give honest feedback to young adults about their work.
The intern receives a copy of the final review, and can use it as input into resumes, college applications, portfolios or just for general reflection on the experience.
As you can see, the Work-Based Learning Plan is designed to be easy to use. It can be completed on paper or online.
If you’re using the online versions you can get a username and password from your program coordinator. Or you can go to massconnecting.org and register. A password will be emailed to you automatically, with step-by-step instructions available onsite.
We hope this video has shown you how important the Work-Based Learning Plan is to the development of work skills in the young adult soon to join your place of business, and how easy it is to use.
Thank you for taking the time to watch this video, and for choosing to play a role helping the young people of Massachusetts become Future Ready.
For more information on the Work-Based Learning Plan, or to register to use the online versions, go to http://massconnecting.org