Work Experience Activity Guide

Work Experience

A Work Experience is a Career Preparation activity in which a student is at a worksite doing real work for pay. The student is held to the same expectations as all employees and is evaluated by the worksite supervisor based on workplace expectations and performance.

Work experiences range from regular, paid employment in summer and/or year-round jobs to subsidized employment and learning-rich work experience. They include both found jobs and those arranged by a college or workforce program. There are also a range of education and training- linked work experience program types defined at the state and federal levels (See State and Federal Work Experience Fact Sheet).

Work Experiences are designed to ...

  • Promote hands-on, real-world experience in a field of interest.
  • Provide productive value for the employer.
  • Offer opportunities to develop, practice and demonstrate employability skills.
  • Build occupational knowledge.
  • Create awareness of the education needed to be successful in the industry.

Work Experiences are structured to ...

  • Enable students to practice and prepare for work, potentially in an area of career interest.
  • Help students develop Work-Readiness Competencies.
  • Build knowledge about the education and training needed for a particular job, career path and advancement in the industry.

Work Experiences are supported by ...

  • Classroom preparation, including research on the industry and participating businesses.
  • Employer orientation and support.
  • Opportunities to reflect upon the experience verbally and in writing.

Work Experiences are connected to ...

  • Individual career development/training plans.
  • Future work-based learning activities.
  • The student’s next steps.

Work experiences are one activity in the continuum of authentic work-based experiences provided to all students engaged in career-related programs or course of study in the Orange County Regional Consortium.

Coordinator Work Experience Checklist

Quick tips for Coordinators to help ensure a successful work experience.

Before the Work Experience ...

  • Define the work experience program structure (time-frame, performance expectations and staff support, for example).
  • Identify all interested faculty members and help them plan for referring students to the opportunities.
  • Orient faculty and encourage them to support and leverage the work experience. Share the Faculty Tip Sheet.
  • Work with faculty and college representatives to create a list of interested and qualified students.
  • Select and refer appropriate candidates for interviews, matched to employer/supervisor specifications.
  • Provide supervisors with the Employer Work Experience Tip Sheet.
  • Determine the worksite supervisor’s preferred form and frequency of contact.
  • Distribute and collect appropriate forms.
  • Identify learning objectives and complete the WBL Plan.
  • Address any transportation or safety gear needs.

During the Work Experience ...

  • If possible, meet with students and worksite supervisors at their workplaces and observe workplace activities. Make sure these visits are pre-arranged with the host and don’t disrupt workflow.
  • Regularly assess student progress and impact of the experience.

After the Work Experience ...

  • Have the supervisor complete the supervisor evaluation and review with the student.
  • Document the work experience. Get feedback from employers and faculty and summarize results using the WBL Activity Evaluation.
  • Help students update their resumes and think about any next steps they would like to take to further their career goals.
  • Work with faculty to coordinate “go deeper” activities to connect the work experience to the classroom and their career goals.
  • Publicize the work experience program and the business that participated by placing a story in the local newspaper or posting on the college or agency webpage.

  • Consider other potential public relations benefits and opportunities.

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Sample Work Experience Timeline

  • Beginning of the college year: Identify interested faculty members and students who could participate.
  • Two months in advance: Invite business partners to post opportunities.
  • One month in advance: Screen students to employer specifications and have them arrange for interviews with the employer.
  • One week in advance: Confirm selection and make sure the student has proper documentation.
  • During the work experience: Visit worksite, if possible, and observe workplace activities. Provide support and address any issues that may arise.
  • After the workplace tour: Send thank-you notes to employers and supervisors and ensure student reflection activities take place.

Student Work Experience Checklist

A work experience gives you the opportunity to have a real job doing productive work with an employer. Through this experience, you will develop and have the chance to demonstrate professional and occupational skills by addressing a core business function.

You’ll also be able to ask questions, practice professional behavior, learn and demonstrate new skills, and become more comfortable communicating with adults.

Before the Work Experience ...

  • Fill out and turn in any required forms.
  • Meet with faculty and program staff to discuss what you want to get out of the work experience. Identify specific learning objectives.
  • Do some research on the host company and the job. Check out their website and learn as much as you can about the company’s history, what they do and how it impacts your community.
  • Research the dress code at the workplace and do your best to mirror it.
  • Make sure you have transportation taken care of to and from the place of business.

During the Work Experience ...

  • Dress appropriately and arrive on time.
  • Make sure you understand your job assignment and tasks, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  • Follow through with the goals you set for yourself.
  • Work on your communication skills, including active listening. Always be respectful.
  • Observe and reflect how people act in the workplace. Put your electronics away until the end of your shift each day.
  • Ask your supervisor if he or she would be willing to provide you with a reference after the job is over. Thank the work contacts for the experience.

After the Work Experience ...

  • Reflect on the experience. Talk with classmates and faculty and think about your level of interest in pursuing a career in that industry.
  • Participate in classroom or program activities that help you think about the value of the work experience.
  • Update your resume and think about next steps in moving your career forward.
  • Send a follow-up email thanking the employer/supervisor for his or her time.
  • Ask your supervisor if you can use him/her as a reference.
  • Complete the evaluation form.

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Getting Ready for Your First Day?

  • Map out employer location and make plans to get there 10 minutes early.
  • Dress professionally.
  • Bring your ID and any other forms that you need.
  • Know the name of your supervisor and who to ask for when you get there.

Faculty Work Experience Tip Sheet

Work Experiences are designed to ...

  • Promote hands-on, real-world experience in a field of interest.
  • Provide productive value for the employer.
  • Offer opportunities to develop, practice and demonstrate employability skills.
  • Build occupational knowledge.
  • Create awareness of the education needed to be successful in the industry.

Before the Work Experience ...

  • Review the Work Experience Fact Sheet and this tip sheet.
  • Assess how the work experience can support classroom activities and help meet curriculum goals.
  • Have each student
    • Identify learning objectives for the job with the student(s) and record in the WBL Plan.
    • Research the job, the host company and the careers it offers.
    • Find out if certain dress or safety gear is required.
  • Distribute and collect any required forms.

During the Work Experience ...

  • Design and coordinate concurrent learning activities in the classroom, so the work experience is not an isolated activity but is connected to academic learning.
  • Provide opportunities for students to reflect on the experience in the classroom, both verbally and in writing.

After the Work Experience...

  • Continue to provide reflection activities for students and help them make the connection between what they’re learning and the workplace.
  • Help the student(s) update their resumes and think about any next steps they would like to take to further their career goals.
  • Assess and document the impact and value of the work experience and discuss the completed worksite supervisor evaluation with the student(s).
  • Work with the coordinator and utilize employer, faculty and student feedback to improve future work experiences. (Use the WBL Activity Evaluation).

Go Deeper

  • Make the work experience part of a project and have the student(s) prepare and deliver a presentation to others at your college about the host company.

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The Classroom Connection: Preparation and Reflection

Before the Work Experience:

Set the student(s) up for success by having them:

  • Research the job. company and industry of the employer.
  • Discuss how the work experience can help them meet learning objectives.

After the Work Experience:

  • Spark student reflection with an activity.
  • Ask, “What new things did you learn from this job and what skills did you acquire?”
  • See if they want to find out more or further explore different jobs and careers in the employer’s industry.

Employer Work Experience Tip Sheet

Thanks for agreeing to hire one of our students and provide them with valuable work experience. As you think about how to best prepare for the experience, keep the following success factors in mind.

Before the Work Experience...

  • Work with the coordinator to develop a job description.
  • Interview, select and hire the student.
  • Review the informational packet provided to you by the coordinator.
  • Provide website link(s) about the job, your company and industry to help students prepare for the work experience.
  • Work with the coordinator to help define ways in which the work experience can align with and support the curriculum.

During the Work Experience...

  • Provide a workplace orientation for the student.
  • Review the Work Readiness Skills document provided by the coordinator and reinforce those concepts when possible.
  • Consider if there are opportunities for students to be exposed to a range of jobs in your organization.
  • Identify opportunities that will support the student’s academic, occupational and employability skill development and assist them in working toward learning objectives.
  • Think about ways you can serve as both a coach and supervisor.
  • Communicate successes and opportunities to the coordinator and student.
  • Use the WBL Training Plan and Evaluation to assess the student’s performance at a mid-point and completion of the work experience. Discuss it with the student and the coordinator.

After the Work Experience...

  • Provide feedback to the coordinator to improve future work experiences.
  • If you’re comfortable doing so, offer to stay in touch via email or LinkedIn.
  • Hold a debriefing session internally at the company to review the effectiveness of the work experience program and make suggestions for improvement.
  • Consider how you might use the work experience to promote your company’s visibility in the community.

Go Deeper

  • Talk to the coordinator about being a guest speaker in the classroom, participating in a mock interview or hosting students for job shadows and/or internships.

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Did You Know?

While working at your company, students are learning about your industry and are considering how they might prepare for a career.

LAOCRC students are studying in the context of a career pathway and preparing for a career in your industry.

Students who experience early employment while in college enjoy higher completion rates and better employment outcomes later in life.

Employer Work Experience Fact Sheet

Work experiences offer students the opportunity to be at a worksite doing real work for pay. The experience can be regular, paid summer or year-round employment, or it may be learning-rich, subsidized employment.

While delivering productive work for pay, students also work on developing and demonstrating professional and occupational skills, communicating effectively and being a productive part of the team. The student is held to the same expectations as all employees and is evaluated by the workplace supervisor based on workplace expectations and performance.

Why are work experiences important for students?

  • Everyone needs a first job or experience in a field of interest, and for many, participation in a work experience program provides that opportunity.
  • Work experiences expose students to potential careers and jobs and help build work-readiness skills and occupational knowledge.
  • They provide a context for learning and foster an understanding of how academic concepts are applied in a real-world setting.
  • They illustrate the education and training needed for entry into certain occupations and careers.
  • They let students know about your company’s processes and products/services and the role your business plays in the community.

What are the benefits to my company?

  • Students are engaged in a core productive activity in your company.
  • Exposes potential future workers to advanced job opportunities and careers with your company, as well as the required skills and education to be successful in your industry.
  • Introduces students to one or more of your employees.
  • Helps your employees understand how to better communicate with the next generation of workers.
  • Provides leadership development opportunities for your existing workforce.

What do I need to do next?

  • Determine who will supervise the student during the experience and have that person connect with the work-based learning coordinator or student to address scheduling, planning and logistics.
  • Arrange for a presentation to those employees who will participate in the work experience.
  • Distribute the Employer Work Experience Tip Sheet to identified supervisors.
  • Consider any impacts on company policy.


  • Review the Employer Participation Options Fact Sheet to learn more about how to get the most out of your partnership with the Orange County Regional Consortium.

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Activity Summary

  • Ratio: 1:1
  • Duration: Varies, can be summertime or year-round
  • Frequency: One time
  • Location: Worksite
  • Costs:Wages (may be subsidized)
  • Special Considerations: Supervisor selection. Labor laws and safety considerations. Impacts on personnel policies.