05 Dec What is WBL?
What is WBL?
Well, we are glad you asked!
In summary, “work-based learning (WBL) is a proactive approach to bridging the gap between high school and high-demand, high-skill careers in Tennessee. Students build on classroom-based instruction to develop employability skills that prepare them for success in postsecondary education and future careers (TN.gov).” In other words – it provides insider information to students about their future careers and allows them to put curriculum into practice. The benefit of work-based learning is not exclusive to students; it benefits schools by increasing engagement and attendance, which in turn increases graduation rates. It also helps employers hire better qualified employees.
Work-based learning helps develop students’ work ethic; a value both industry and education can support. Industries in Southeast Tennessee have indicated the main skills lacking in the workforce could be easily developed with some attention and discipline. Some include punctuality, attendance, and abstinence from illegal substances. WBL is a viable approach for students to develop these vital skills.
Annie White, Regional Project Manger for Pathways to Prosperity of Southeast Tennessee, interviewed Tony Cates, HR Manager for Gestamp, who believes strongly in the power of WBL. Gestamp is a world leader dedicated to steel processing, and is a major industry partner of Pathways. Their discussion provides valuable insight to the importance of developing a strong talent pipeline in Tennessee.
Annie: Tell me about your newly adopted Work-Based Learning program with Hamilton County students and Gestamp.
Tony: This fall, Gestamp has taken on six work-based learning students; three from Hixson, and three from Tyner Academy. The students from Hixson work three days a week, and the Tyner students work four days a week.
Annie: Tony, you were not always on board with taking on under age 18 students in your facility. What was the tipping point for you to reconsider and essentially make it happen for six students starting out? Why did you change your mind?
Tony: Creating opportunities for students to prepare for the future workforce is the right thing to do. I don’t do this because it’s easy! I was primarily inspired by what I saw on a trip I took with other industries and educators to Southwire in Georgia – a manufacturing facility run primarily by under age 18 students. It was a game changer to me…I thought, ‘if these students can perform these tasks, I can make it happen.’ I was also guided by Chelsea Parker of the State Department of Education regarding what is and isn’t allowed from a legal standpoint in a manufacturing setting. Truth is, there is very little permitting a company from taking on under aged youth.
Annie: So…why do you do what you do, Tony? Why Work Based Learning?
Tony: Apart from it being the right thing to do as I mentioned before, we need to develop the next generation of the workforce and build a labor pool from high school. When the students graduate, and enter the workforce, they have what they need; an understanding of performance, quality and safety, all in a manufacturing setting. But mainly, it’s just the right thing to do!