Developing Meaningful Work-Based Learning Opportunities At The New Castle Career Center

When Braylon W.J. McRoberts began considering the dental field, he enrolled in work-based learning through the New Castle Career Center to get a head start on his career.

“I knew it would give me a general idea of what I really wanted to do in the future and teach me some great things that I will need to know and use in life,” Braylon noted.

Mackenzie Jackson, New Castle Career Center Director, defines work-based learning as a sustained interaction with industry or community professionals in real workplace settings or in simulated educational environments. Through these interactions, students gain in-depth, first-hand knowledge of the tasks associated with their selected career field.

“Work-Based Learning Capstone experiences occur in workplaces and involve an employer assigning a student meaningful job tasks to develop his or her skills, knowledge, and readiness for work learned at the New Castle Career Center,” she explained.

A Win-Win For Students And Employers

Braylon did his clinical work at Parkview Family Dentistry.  The part-time work experience has been beneficial for both him and his employer. 

“I really enjoyed being placed on an internship in an actual dental office,” he said. “I have absorbed a great idea of what I really want to do and have enjoyed every single minute of it.”

From an employer perspective, Dr. Ashley Golliher, DDS, sees the value in providing this type of experience. 

“I feel that it’s important to give students hands-on experience with not only patient care but also working in an office with other employees,” she shared. “The existing staff enjoy participating in the learning experience for the new students. They enjoy the students bringing fun and excitement to the office on a daily basis.”

For Dr. Golliher, the work-based learning program has also become a recruiting tool: “We have hired two students right out of the Dental Careers Program,” she said.

Pairing Work Experience With Practical Learning

The student, teacher, and workplace mentor/supervisor create a clear partnership agreement and training plan to guide the student’s work-based experiences and assist in evaluating achievement and performance. Work-based learning opportunities at the New Castle Career Center are paired with related instruction in the program.

“This planned instruction is designed around the activities associated with the student’s individual job and career objectives in a pathway and is taught during the same semester the student is participating in the work-based experience,” according to Mackenzie Jackson. “Students have the ability to put the foundational skills learned at NCCC to use in real-world settings, make meaningful relationships, and begin their careers while still in high school.”

At New Castle Career Center, students can participate at the Center, work and earn high school and college credits, gain industry certifications, work in the community, and attend their sending school all at the same time. While the concept of work-based learning is gaining popularity, Jackson notes that it has evolved over time and continues to get better and expand each year.

“It is for all students,” she said. “We have students working at Henry Community Health in clinical rotations to see which area of health care they prefer before they apply to a four-year college. Some students are working in paid internships looking for full-time employment after graduation. Several students learn a trade, work, and then use the skills from NCCC to establish a higher rank in the military. Work-based learning is an individual approach and a career beginning regardless of the student’s future goals.”  

McRoberts appreciates this individualized approach: “When I go to college, I will have pre-knowledge of what to do in this career and how to use it. The work-based learning has also shown me some core values for the workforce like professionalism, neatness, and a major category of working skills.”

He has also formed close relationships that have helped him improve as a student and an employee.

“Some of the best people I have encountered that help me learn the most are my dental teacher and my Expanded-Functions Dental Assistant (EFDA) that I worked with on my internship in a dental office,” he expressed. “They have both taught me everything I know.”