Work-based learning provides the opportunity to gain and apply new skills in a practical environment, and can include internships, apprenticeships and mentorship. And it’s not just for traditional college students or entry-level employees.
Discover how three individuals used work-based learning to find new careers.
Benjamin Noble is a 35-year-old student in the electrical program at Baton Rouge Community College. He started in the program while working as a delivery driver for a major retailer. Now, he’s an industrial electrician helper and is working toward becoming a journeyman. He attended classes two nights per week and spent the rest of the time applying what he learned on the job. “I met some people along the way that have helped me and allowed me to get my foot in the door,” Noble says.
Girard Melancon, the executive director for workforce education at BRCC, says his unit involves about 600 hours of training and is an industry-based certification program. “That’s not to say that 600 training hours is all a person needs to be hired as an advanced-level technician in a high-paying job,” Melancon says. However, credentials made up of less than 600 hours are often enough to start a career. “I hear from my industry partners in Baton Rouge that it’s not the time one spends in school that truly matters — it’s the quality of on-the-job experience that one has.”
Melancon says many people have moved from poverty to prosperity as a result of these short-term, industry-driven training programs. “Many of our program graduates have secured full-time employment opportunities from regional employers with an average starting wage of $24 an hour.” New hires typically have to commit to additional training to further advance in their careers.
Hazel Radusch, 42, is a managed-services consultant at Sparkhound, a consulting and IT-services provider in Baton Rouge. She started working for the company as a contractor eight years ago, when she was in college. “Since then, they’ve hired me as a contractor again and again, and then hired me to work permanently with the company,” she says.
Radusch says work-based training has helped her to retain her job. “I learn more from doing than I ever would in school, or watching a video, so for those like me, work-based training is amazing.” She’s found it to be particularly helpful at Sparkhound, where clients’ needs change constantly. “Coming from a nontechnical background to where I am with Sparkhound today, with Tier 1 and 2 support, I would definitely recommend work-based learning to anyone wanting to further their careers,” Radusch says.
Craig Silvey has an undergraduate degree in general studies and is a co-founder of Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, where he oversaw the IT and finance departments. Today, at 46, he’s the director of business development at Sparkhound. “For most of my career, I worked on the other side of the desk and engaged companies like Sparkhound.” He says work-based learning at Sparkhound helped him to apply the skills he’d already learned and combine them with the ability to empathize and relate to customers.
Silvey attended business school in his early 30s, and also has an MBA. “I would advise undergrad students not to not pursue an MBA right after graduating,” he says. “The tools you learn from attending a MBA program are valuable, but only in reference to what can be related in real-world experience.”
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