The Student's Perspective

Videotape Presentation:


This section and the accompanying videotape presentation and handout speak to the issues of access to, and benefits of, work-based learning activities from the student's perspective.

Why Participate in Work-Based Learning?

Why Participate in Work-Based Learning, Transparency
Why Participate in Work-Based Learning?
  • Practice skills learned in school.
  • Clarify academic and career interests.
  • Determine which worksite accommodations work best.

Work-based learning experiences are any work experiences, paid or unpaid, that provide opportunities to practice skills learned in school, clarify academic and career interests, determine which worksite accommodations work best, and develop contacts for future employment. Much of what students gain from participation in work-based learning activities cannot be taught in a typical college course. Through the interaction of classroom study and work experiences, students can enhance their academic knowledge, personal development and professional preparation.

Why Participate Part 2, Transparency

  • Develop contacts for future employment.
  • Develop human relations and teamwork skills through interactions with co -workers.
  • Gain academic credit.
  • Practice writing résumés and cover letters.
  • Identify community-based career assistance programs.

Work-based learning can give students with disabilities opportunities to practice disclosing their disabilities, and requesting accommodations from potential employers while determining which accommodations work best for them. It is essential to their future success that they be able to clearly articulate their accommodation needs as they apply for jobs after graduation. The time to practice is now. In addition, participating in work experience programs can help students with disabilities:

Many colleges and universities offer programs that help students gain work experience and network with potential employers. Offerings vary from campus to campus. Students need to do some research to find those best suited to their needs. Work-based learning programs include:

Descriptions of these activities are as follows.

Types of Work Experience, Transparency

Types of Work Experience
  • Internship
  • Cooperative Education
  • Job Shadowing
  • Service Learning
  • Independent Study
  • Informational Interviews
  • Career Services

What is an Internship?

An internship is a time-limited, intensive learning experience outside of the typical classroom. Students work with program staff and participating employers to locate suitable positions for a planned set of learning activities. Internships give students broad overviews of occupational fields while providing opportunities to develop work-readiness skills. Academic credit is sometimes granted, depending on the academic program.

What is Cooperative Education?

Cooperative education programs work with students, faculty, staff, and employers to help students clarify career and academic goals, and expand classroom study by allowing students to participate in paid, practical work experiences. These programs provide students opportunities to work in trainee positions in their fields of interest and to gain career-related experience as a part of their academic programs. Many employers use cooperative education programs as a way to groom future employees. Academic credit may be arranged.

What is Job Shadowing?

Job shadowing, where students visit businesses to observe one or more specific job, provides them with a realistic view of occupations in a variety of settings. They observe essential functions of occupational areas of interest. Experiences vary in time from one hour to a full day depending on the amount of time employers can provide. Job shadowing experiences offer opportunities for career exploration. Students usually arrange job shadowing appointments independently. Typically, they do not generate academic credit.

What is Service Learning?

Service learning programs offer opportunities to be concerned, informed and productive citizens by providing community service in non-paid, volunteer positions. It gives students opportunities to apply knowledge and skills learned in school while making a contribution to local communities. Academic credit may or may not be arranged depending on the field of study.

What is an Independent Study?

Students may be able to earn academic credit for work experiences outside of a structured career-based program. Many academic programs allow independent studies as an optional program component. Students who choose to enroll in independent studies work one-on-one with individual faculty members to develop projects for credit. Projects can range from research papers to work experience within their fields of study. Work experience, coupled with documentation, such as a journal or paper, is an excellent way to practice and demonstrate the skills learned in college.

What is an Informational Interview?

Informational interviews, where students meet with people working in careers to ask questions about their jobs and companies, allow students to gain personal perspectives on career interests. They also allow students to learn more about jobs from the people who do them every day. Informational interviews are usually arranged by the students themselves and don't typically generate academic credit.

What is Career Services?

A career services office provides a variety of career and job search services to students and alumni. Many can help people develop career plans and job search skills through individual counseling and job search workshops. The career services office acts as a liaison between students, alumni, faculty, staff, and prospective employers by organizing campus interviews, employer information and career fairs. Many offices also provide job listings and job lines for students and alumni to access.

Which Employers Participate?

Federal and State agencies, public, private and nonprofit businesses seek college students for placements across the country and overseas. The majority of opportunities are for sophomores and older students. However, some also offer opportunities to freshmen. Boeing, IBM, Microsoft, NASA, the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, US Central Intelligence Agency, USDA Forest Service, the US Department of Energy, and Weyerhaeuser, are just a few of the thousands of employers nationwide who offer valuable opportunities to students.

Who are the Team Players?

Career development professionals are required to assist all students, including students with disabilities, as they prepare to enter the workforce. Other team players in assuring successful transitions to employment include the students themselves, employers, faculty members, staff, teachers, counselors, and disabled student services staff.

College students with disabilities should:

Employers should:

Faculty members, staff, teachers, or counselors should:

Disabled Student Services (DSS) officers should:

How Should Students Disclose Their Disabilities?

There isn't one correct answer when it comes to disclosure of disability to a potential employer. Applicants are not required to discuss their disabilities or request accommodations until a job offer has been made. An employer may only ask about an applicant's ability to perform the functions of the job in question, not his/her disability. If a student's disability is obvious, he should be prepared to discuss its implications during the interview. He should discuss the disability as it relates to the performance of specific job tasks rather than how it is defined medically. He may choose to volunteer the methods he uses to accomplish standard tasks. For example, if blind, he might describe how his voice output system allows efficient computer access.

AccessCAREERS, Transparency


Education, and

How Can Students Get Started?

To get started, students can use the AccessCAREERS acronym:

Students should start doing everything they can now to make themselves attractive to future employers. The resources are out there. They need to find and make use of them.

DO-IT Goes to Work

Work-based learning experiences help students choose careers, network with potential employers, clarify academic goals, and develop job skills relevant to future employment. In one discussion that occurred via an electronic mail discussion list on the Internet, DO-IT students and adult mentors focused on work-based learning experiences that occur before graduation from college. Participants, who have disabilities themselves, responded to the following questions:

As demonstrated by these opinions, participation in an internship or other work-based learning experience can provide an important step in the transition to a successful career, especially for people with disabilities.