Work experiences are a critical component of preparing youth for transition to adulthood. Potential benefits for youth who participate in work experiences include: 1) gaining career readiness skills including the “soft skills” that employers look for in entry level workers; 2) increasing one’s knowledge of specific occupational skills and workplace settings; 3) establishing a work history and connections with employers that can aid in future job searches; and 4) developing an understanding of different occupations in order to make informed career choices. In addition, research studies suggest that work-based learning may increase school attendance, decrease dropout rates, reduce school suspensions, and increase school engagement.
While work experiences are beneficial to all youth, they are particularly valuable for youth with disabilities. Work experiences, both paid and unpaid, for youth with disabilities during high school help them acquire jobs at higher wages after they. In addition, students who participate in occupational education and special education in integrated settings are more likely to be competitively employed than students who have not participated in such activities. This Innovative Strategies Practice Brief provides practical examples and resources used by promising and exemplary youth programs to engage youth in work experiences. Work experiences described in this brief include internships, summer jobs, youth-run businesses/entrepreneurship, service projects and volunteer work, and part-time jobs.