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Work-Based Learning

Welcome to the Center for Career Readiness Work-Based Learning page. This page is designed for business owners and employers to help you connect with students at the University of Northern Colorado and understand our processes related to Work-Based Learning. Below, you can find a definition of “Work-Based Learning,” common types of work-based learning, how work-based learning opportunities benefit you as the employer, and how to engage with and hire our students for opportunities within your business.

We encourage you to read this page in detail and create your employer Handshake account before reaching out to the Center for Career Readiness about setting up a work-based learning opportunity for UNC students. When you are ready to design, advertise, and hire for your opportunity, we are here to help. You can reach us at career.readiness@unco.edu.

What is Work-Based Learning?

Work-based learning is an educational approach that places students in a work environment that will help them connect academic experiences to real-life work activities and future career opportunities. UNC students pursue many different types of work-based learning experiences which may or may not be a course or graduation requirement. Employers can hire students within their organizations or volunteer their time and expertise to provide work-based learning opportunities to UNC students.

The goal of work-based learning is to provide students with the following opportunities:

  • Application of classroom learning in real-world setting
  • Establishment of connection between school and work
  • Improvement in critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and logical abilities
  • Expansion of curriculum and learning facilities
  • Meeting the diverse needs of the learner
  • Creating a talented and skilled pool of future employees
  • Reduces pre-service training time and cost
  • Improvement of student awareness of career opportunities
  • Making education relevant and valuable to the social context
  • Community building exercise for productive economy

Below are the most common examples of work-based learning opportunities that we support our students engaging in:

  • Practicums

    Practicums are a course of study devoted to practical training in the field. This most often occurs in specialized areas of study such as teaching, nursing, etc. Practicums involve heavy supervision from a designated mentor and agreements between the university and the organizations hosting a student for the practicum.

  • Internships

    An internship is a temporary position with an emphasis on on-the-job training rather than merely employment. An internship is an opportunity to develop specific job-related skills before the student graduates. Some students choose to pursue internship for credit, in which they receive academic or degree credit for completing a certain number of hours in the internship role. There are several UNC programs that require students to complete an internship for credit so requirements and level of employer involvement vary by department. Students may also choose to pursue internships not for credit, in which case the university may or may not be involved with the process.

    Internships have specific rules and guidelines as set by the Fair Labor Standards act. It is important you understand these laws before attempting to recruit interns for your organization.

  • Apprenticeships

    Apprenticeships are similar to internships, but have differences including:

    • Being focused on highly skilled technical jobs, such as engineering, welding, masonry, or carpentry
    • Having the intention of training for a specific role within your company, with hiring them full time at the end of the apprenticeship
    • Having a more rigorous structure with specific skills that must be considered “mastered” by the apprentice for the apprenticeship to be considered completed
  • Service Learning

    Service-Learning is a combination of community service and career in which students provide volunteer service focused on their area of study. This may include work with public and non-profit agencies, civic and government offices, etc.

Employer Benefits of Work-Based Learning

  • Find Future Employees & Increase Visibility

    Internships and other work-based learning opportunities allow you to connect directly with UNC students interested in working with your organization. Investing your time in work-based learning opportunities helps create an ongoing pipeline of future full-time employees.

     Further, students who have worked with your organization often share their experiences with their peers, trusted faculty and staff, social media sites, and through reviews on your company handshake account.

  • Evaluate Potential & Increase Productivity

    Hiring a student as an intern or connecting with them during other work-based learning opportunities provides you with a chance to evaluate the student’s ability to thrive in your organization as a future full-time employee. With your coaching and training, these students are more prepared and informed to come onto your staff full-time.

    As well, UNC students are excited to develop their skills and practice their classroom learning in a real-world setting. They are motivated to take on projects, responsibilities, and tasks that help them learn. Their support will help your business reach its goals and free up your team to accomplish other high-level tasks.

  • New Perspectives & Giving Back to Community

    UNC students bring more to the table than just enthusiasm and extra help. Our students are learning about the newest strategies, technologies, and trends in their field of study. Bringing a student onto your team will bring novel perspectives and new ideas. To maximize this, students should always be included on your project brainstorming sessions!

    Working with UNC students not only helps your organization, but it enhances the local workforce. Thanks in part to the learning opportunities with local organizations, students are leaving UNC as skilled workers which benefit any future employer they work for. In return, these students and the larger community will be more motivated to support your organization.

  • Closing Skill Gaps & Fostering Leadership

    Every year the annual workforce reports indicate that employers want students with excellent soft skills such as communication, leadership, and teamwork. The best way you can help students develop these skills is by giving them opportunities to practice them in a real-world setting. Your work-based learning experiences can help a student close this skills gap and at the same time prepare them for the skills you need in a future full-time hire.

    As your current employee’s train, mentor, and supervise students in work-based learning opportunities, they’ll gain valuable leadership skills. This is a great way to develop current employee skills in preparation for future management positions as supervising a small group of students is a steppingstone toward supervising a full team of peers.

  • Improve Work Environment & Increase Retension

    Taking on students for work-based learning opportunities allows your team to have a lighter workload, foster their leadership abilities, and serve as an opportunity to work on creative or advanced projects. Further, interns are often excited, motivated, and ready to learn. All these things can improve the overall work environment.

    Studies show that students who intern with a company before being hired full time are almost 30% more likely to still be at that same company one year later as compared to traditional full-time hires. This means your hires from work-based learning opportunities are not only more well-trained to be taken on full-time, but are also more likely to stay with the company than a traditional hire.

Ready to Engage

We are so excited you are ready to engage with UNC students and continue the discussion on how work-based learning opportunities can benefit your business. Here are just a few of the many ways you can engage with UNC students outside of hiring for traditional internships and jobs.

  • Job Shadowing

    Job shadowing is a popular on-the-job learning, career development, and leadership development intervention. This experience involves matching a student with an employee from your company who can help the student learn new aspects related to the job, the organization, and see first-hand what the student could expect from working in the role.

  • Informational Interviews

    An informational interview is an informal conversation between a student and someone working in a related field of study who will provide the student with information and advice. It is not a job interview, and the objective is not to find job openings.

  • Career-Related Competitions

    Employers who are interested in hosting career-related competitions can advertise them at any time through Handshake. If your competition is free for students to participate, we are often willing to advertise them on campus. We do not advertise career-related competitions in which students must pay to participate.

  • Additional Opportunties

    Some additional opportunities for employers to engage with students could be through participating in resume reviews or mock interviews, giving company tours, holding virtual presentations on Handshake, or attending our jobs fairs.

Ready to Hire

We are so excited that you are ready to hire UNC Bears for your internships, jobs, and other work-based learning opportunities. Below are options for facilitating the recruiting and hiring processes for our students.

  • Handshake

    The best way to connect with our UNC students and alumni is to establish a Handshake account and request to connect with UNC.  Handshake is our online career platform where we encourage employers to post their jobs/internships, create events, participate in interviewing, and register for our fairs. 

  • On-Campus Interviews

    If you have opportunities you intend to hire UNC students for and would like to host on-campus interviews, please reach out to career.readiness@unco.edu.

  • Fairs and Events

    The University of Northern Colorado hosts multiple fairs and events throughout the year. These opportunities are an ideal way for employers to connect with many students at one time to share company information, details about hiring opportunities, and create a pipeline of future employees.