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12 Career Exploration Activities to Try

At a Glance

Work-based learning experiences (WBLE) help learners connect school experiences to real-life work activities and future career opportunities.

Our students find WBLE to be very beneficial to practicing and generalizing vocational skills and making connections to future employers in the community.

WBLE are a predictor and contributor to future positive adulthood outcomes.

Is your child/teen or are your students engaged in career exploration, vocational learning, or work-based learning experiences? 

Work-based learning experiences (WBLE) help learners connect school experiences to real-life work activities and future career opportunities.

There are a number of WBLE that your student, child, or teen can take advantage of and find helpful.

Although, there's not a lot of research on the adolescent and adulthood years in comparison to early childhood, what we do have from the research are a couple of major findings:

  1. Autistic adults experience lower levels of employment in comparison to their peers (~80% are unemployed).
  2. Connecting autistic individuals to vocational experiences early and often are predictors of finding and sustaining employment.

In this blog post, we have a large list of the types of work-based learning experiences that you, your students, or your child/teen may want to try. 

Note: that this is not a mandatory checklist for you to go through every single option, not everyone benefits from all of these WBLE options. We recommend selecting options that are a good match for your classroom, your student, their interests, and their needs.

1. Job Shadowing

Job shadowing involves following along or working with an employee at a job site. This on-the-job learning experience helps the learner understand the aspects of the job, responsibilities, the job in action, organization, and certain competencies required of the job.

2. Career Mentorship

A mentor is an individual who advises, provides, guidances, and teaches someone who is less experienced and oftentimes younger.

3. Informational Interviews

A job exploration and research tool, in which a learner conducts an informal conversation with someone working in a career or job. They may bring questions of their own, ask for advice and guidance, and what an average day may look like.

4. Internships (Paid & Non-Paid)

A paid or non-paid temporary position in which an individual gets on-the-job training and practices specific job-related skills.

5. Practicum

Practical training in the field, related to a course of study of a specialized field of study. 

6. Service Learning

Integrates hands-on community service experiences with classroom instruction and reflection. The goal is to support communities, partner with community organizations, teach civic responsibility, and deepen the learning experience.

7. Student-Led Enterprises

School- or classroom-based enterprises in which students help produce goods or services for sale or to be used by people other than the students themselves (e.g., other classmates, teachers, professionals).

8. Simulated Workplace Experience

Simulated work environments in any field. This work-based learning experience allows students to develop and apply their skills related job expectations and standards. Examples: automotive or construction programs.

9. Work Experience (Paid & Non-Paid)

A career exploration activity in which a student may be paid or non-paid. Individuals focus on general workplace skills or career preparation activities within a specific industry or career area.

The non-paid work experience is more exploratory in nature and the goal is for the individual to be exposed to a variety of occupations. 

10. Volunteering

When an individual donates their time and efforts for a cause or organization without being paid. May be one-time only or an ongoing commitment. 

11. Workplace Tours / Field Trips

A group visit for the purpose of first-hand observation to specific work sites. Students learn about the work site, meet employees, ask questions, and observe work in progress.

12. Career-Related Clubs

Joining or starting a career-related club or organization can help individuals learn more about a job, industry, training, and/or field of study. There are a number of activities a club may participate in, including competitions to learn a skill, connect with job sites, continue career exploration research (through book clubs, reading, videos), mentorship, and builds connections between club members and individuals in the career of interest.

Green background with Title: Career Exploration Experiences to Try (also known as work-based learning experiences, which connects school to real-life work activities and future career opportunities

For More Reading

Our list was inspired by one created by the Workforce Innovation Technical Assistance Center (WINTAC)

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