Image of screenIf you have multiple participants in the same worksite with the same (or similar) job descriptions you can use the "COPY WBLP" button to make a copy of a WBLP and placement information.

ORIf you have a participant who has continued in his/her job from one program year to the next, you can use the "COPY ALL" button. 

 1.) First, complete the placement screen or WBLP heading screen, job description, and skills/tasks for one intern. 

 2.) Then go to the placement screen or WBLP heading screen and scroll down toward the bottom and find the COPY button.  Read the description to see which "COPY" option you want.

 

Screen short of copy button

 3.)  After you click the COPY button, a copy will be created and a message will appear on the page. 

The message will say that the new record has “(COPY) – “ and the employer name or participant name in the participant name field, and will explain that you can now go to the new record and fill in the details.
 
You can go to the new record via the “GO TO NEW RECORD” button or via the menu.
 
REPEAT for each copy you want to make.   

During conversations about program evaluation and survey design, we often about “what makes a good survey question?”  There is no one definitive set of rules about writing questions and questionnaires  But there are some general principles that are commonly accepted.  There is lots of advice focused on avoiding leading questions and avoiding cultural bias.  There is lots of discussion about choosing the best format for questions, comparing the merits of open-ended, rating scale, multiple choice questions or yes/no questions.  But there is no exact science.  Every survey-writer needs to apply their best judgment about their survey audience and the goals of their survey.

 

Here are some of my ideas for creating youth-friendly surveys and questionnaires for youth and families.

 

Questions Should Be:

Comfortable

Using questions for which a person can comfortably choose any answer, without feeling that they ought to give a particular answer.

Realistic

Using questions that realistically reflect the range of respondent interests and experiences and are likely to provide a variety of responses.

Respectful

Using questions that respect individual styles and cultures.

Reasonable length

Designing questions and surveys that are in-depth enough to be effective but not overly time-consuming.

Focused

Focusing questions on topics relevant to program goals, activities and necessary background.

Useful

Using questions that will produce information that can be can be analyzed, shared and discussed.

Integral to programming

Making information-gathering a natural and integral part of programming.

 

 

 

 

Principle #1: Comfortable. Using questions that a reasonable person can comfortably choose any answer, without feeling that they ought to give a particular answer.

 

Respondents should feel comfortable enough to respond honestly, without feeling that the question is leading them toward a particular conclusion or implying that they "ought to" respond a certain way.  Classic "leading questions" are phrased in a way that subtly or not-so-subtly lead the respondent toward a particular response.

 

Don’t you think that ____ is getting too old to be an effective mayor?” is an example of a not-at-all subtle leading question. "

 

Do you eat at least seven servings of vegetables daily?" or "Do you regularly eat dinner together as a family at the dining room table?" are examples of a what I call  ought-to" questions: questions which suggest that the respondent "ought to" say yes.

 

Yes/no type questions about healthy habits, family activities or many other lifestyle topics can take on an “ought-to” tone because schools, media and other sources regularly promote the idea that people ought to eat lots of vegetables, have a good breakfast daily. eat dinner together regularly, or other key habits.  The phrasing of the question and the juxtaposition of a series of "ought to" topics can also suggest that a respondent ought to answer a certain way.  Survey respondents should not be forced to say “no” explicitly to something they know ought to be a yes.  Instead, questions should be structured to allow respondents to choose from a variety of options on checklists or use rating scales that allow a range of answers, so they can feel comfortable assessing their relative strengths and weaknesses, preferences, opinions or interests related to a topic and answer comfortably and honestly.

 

Principle #2: Realistic. Using questions that realistically reflect the range of respondent interests and experiences and are likely to provide a variety of responses.

 

Questions should realistically reflect the likely interests and experiences of the population.  For example: a career interest survey asks a series of questions about interests, such as:

 

“Do you enjoy performing music?”

“Do you enjoy working with children?”
“Do you enjoy filling out income tax forms?”

 

For a younger population, the question about income tax forms is not realistic because young people probably haven’t filled out income tax forms yet. For an older population, income tax forms might not be something people realistically think of as “enjoyable” even if they enjoy working with information and filling out forms.

 

Any survey assessing interests, experiences and attitudes should suggest options that are realistic for the targeted population and age group.  It is okay if some questions are a “stretch,” but important that the overall range of options is realistic.

 

Principle #3: Respectful. Respecting individual styles and cultures.

 

It is helpful to have several people look over proposed questions to look for both cultural bias and for issues with regard to respecting variations in individual styles and values.

 

For example, different people or cultures may use different wording when talking about volunteering, service learning, community service, or helping out in the community.  The questions "Do you enjoy community service?" or "Do you enjoy volunteering in the community?" or "Do you enjoy helping out in your community?" may bring out different understanding and responses for different people.

 

Or, for example, different cultures (and individual families) may emphasize different aspects of family life, so questions about family life and parent involvement should recognize and respect a variety of approaches.

 

One important part of respectful questionnaire design is to avoid conveying biased or negative images of participants’ lives, families and neighborhoods.  For examples, surveys with a heavy focus on risk behaviors suggest to youth that the survey-writers expect these behaviors.  Or, for example, surveys that ask about possible deficits in the participants’ lives suggest that the survey-writers expect these deficits.  If it is important to survey youth about these issues, it can be helpful to balance the survey by asking about positive behaviors and assets as well, and perhaps to use rating scales, checklists with multiple options or other survey methods to allow a range of positive or mid-range responses.

 

It is important to remember that for youth especially (but also for individuals of all ages) taking a survey is a learning experience.  Survey takers form impressions about the world, about themselves, and about your program based on the nature of the questions posed to them.

 

Principle #4: Reasonable Length. Designing questions and surveys that are in-depth enough to be effective but not overly time-consuming.

 

It’s important to seek balance in determining the overall length of a questionnaire and the length and complexity of the questions.  You -- and your survey respondents -- want the survey to be long enough to gather useful and meaningful information.  But you want to be respectful of the respondents' time and attention.

 

Consider the quality of the survey-taking experience.  If answering a question provides respondents with a positive opportunity to reflect on their own experiences or interests or to share feedback about your program, then it feels worthwhile for the respondent to “invest” time in the survey.  But if questions feel repetitive or require too much effort, respondents will quickly start to feel that the survey is too long.

 

Principle #5: Focused. Focusing questions on topics relevant to program goals, activities and necessary background.

 

Questions should be clearly focused on the program goals and activities, including any background information that is relevant.

 

Questions about goals and activities should be asked using simple, clear language:

 

* using simple, fresh, everyday language (not 'program-specific' language if possible);

* very briefly defining any terms or concepts that may need clarification;

* avoiding jargon or slang;

* avoiding "compound" questions that combine more than one thought into a single question;

 

Ideally, any questions about demographics, such as gender, age group or other details, are saved until the end of a survey, and kept to a minimum, focusing only on the demographics that are required for reporting or likely to be relevant to analyzing the survey data.

 

Principle #6: Useful. Using questions that will produce useful information that can be analyzed, shared and discussed.

 

Whatever the format of the question, including open-ended questions, yes/no, multiple choice, rating scale, etc., it is important to gather information that can be summarized, analyzed and shared with staff and others for improving programming, describing activities and outcomes, evaluating the program, or seeking support and funding for future programming.  Questions should be designed so that the analysis can compare results over time (if the survey will be repeated in the future) and across groups of survey-takers.  Open-ended questions, if used, should provide insights that can be used as conversation-starters for shaping future strategies and that can be summarized and grouped in a way that provides summary-level data as well as individual insights.

 

Principle #7: Integral to programming. Making information-gathering a natural and integral part of programming.

 

Wherever possible, information gathering should use reflections, goal setting activities, career interest checklists, or other materials that are integral to the programming.

 

Staff and participants should get accustomed to a few different types of information-gathering activities such as pre-program and post-program questionnaires or tests, reflection sheets after an activity, quarterly parent, teacher or student surveys, goal-setting questionnaires, interest questionnaires or college/career planning checklists.

 

If possible, information-gathering should be based on activities that are primarily designed as learning experiences for the participants, and that also provide useful data for the program.  Goal-setting questionnaires, interest checklists, skills checklists or other types of reflections can provide an opportunity for valuable reflection and goal setting for participants while also providing data for program evaluation.

 

Whatever the formats used, data collection should be seen as an integral part of programming.  It may provide a valuable opportunity to reflect and learn -- and it always should be seen as a comfortable and pleasant part of the program.

The term School to Career Connecting Activities refers to building connections between employers and schools in order to provide work experience opportunities and other career development opportunities. Connecting Activities is a state budget line item that provides money for staff who create these school-employer connections through work-based learning programs. Connecting Activities staff also support other connections, such as job shadow days, career days, employer guest speaker programs, workshops and other career development activities. The primary measurement goals for the initiative are based on employer and student participation in work-based learning experiences (jobs/internships). Connecting Activities funding flows from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) to the regional Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs).

  • Each region has flexibility in how they organize and staff the Connecting Activities initiative. Staff may come from the school district, the WIB, the Career Center, a School-to-Career partnership, or a partner organization such as a chamber of commerce or community college.
  • Each region, in consultation with local school districts, also has flexibility in program design, around the central element of connecting students with work-based learning. Additional program design elements may include workshops, career fairs and career days, job shadow days, teacher externship programs, employer guest speaker programs, or other career development activities.
  • Connecting Activities programming is designed to enhance, complement and support other programming in the school and community, so that youth can experience a range of opportunities as they develop college and career readiness throughout their high school years.

BRIEF HISTORY

 

1990s

National School to Work Opportunities Act. Massachusetts created School to Career programs in the 1990s through a five-year grant under the National School to Work Opportunities Act. At the end of this five-year federal grant (which was designed as seed money to build the foundation for ongoing programs), Massachusetts created the “Connecting Activities” initiative to continue this work.

1998

The Connecting Activities initiative began in 1998.

1999

In 1999, a working group of staff, employers and educators from across Massachusetts, convened by the ESE Connecting Activities program, created the first version of the Work-Based Learning Plan. The Work-Based Learning Plan is a central element for Connecting Activities and other youth employment programs for creating quality work-based learning placements.

 

The first version of the program's database -- the PC-based School to Career Database -- was launched in 1998-99.

2003

When Connecting Activities programs provided successful work-and-learning programs to help students from the class of 2003 re-take and pass the MCAS, Connecting Activities programming became aligned with MCAS/Academic Support programming. Since 2003, priority has been placed on providing opportunities for students who need to take MCAS re-tests in order to graduate. Many regions have created “Work and Learning Academic Support” programs, which combine a work experience with classroom instruction related to MCAS preparation. The classroom instruction in these programs is supported by Academic Support grants from ESE, with the employer connection and job placement supported by Connecting Activities funding.

 

This connection between MCAS, Academic Support and Connecting Activities continued a theme that was important throughout the development of the School-to-Career concept: the concept that quality work experiences both directly and indirectly enhance all types of skill development, including academic skills, technical/career skills and basic foundation skills.

2006

The current version of the Work-Based Learning Plan was developed by another interagency working group of staff, employers and educators.

2008

The Online Work-Based Learning Database (now renamed the Massachusetts Career Ready Database) was launched through a pilot group of summer YouthWorks and Connecting Activities summer jobs programs. Gradually the pilot database grew to be a statewide database. The database is used by all Connecting Activities programs, as well as any other programs that want an online version of the Work-Based Learning Plan, including a wide variety of WIA Youth, YouthWorks, Cooperative Education and other statewide and local youth employment programs.

2011

The Connecting Activities initiative introduced new Work and Learning Program Elements to guide programming and organize reporting.  These elements (using the acronym AGROWE) focus on coordinating with initiatives in local schools to raise graduation rates; to help students develop college and career plans; to provide students with workshops and classes coordinated with work-based learning placements; to use the Massachusetts Work-Based Learning Plan to structure work-based learning placements, and continue to connect employers and schools.

2014

The massconnecting.org website was launched, along with the new "Join the Network" and "Share Your Story" pages. These new features reach out to invite schools to become members of the Connecting Activities network, extending the network to include both partner and member schools.

The skillspages.com website is designed to provide a topic-by-topic outline of information and skills needed for work in youth employment programs, as well as quick reference and training tools to help people with the use of the Massachusetts Career Ready Database and the Massachusetts Work-Based Learning Plan.  Topics include:

1. Using the Work-Based Learning Plan

2. Using the Massachusetts Career Ready Database

3. Working with Youth, Employers, Schools and Communities

4. Forms, Procedures and Policies

5. The Connecting Activiites Initiative

The topic outline provides an introduction to some of the basics about working in the Connecting Activities initiative and in other youth employment programs and career development programs. Each item on the main menu introduces a topic, provides a link to an introductory article or PowerPoint presentation, and suggests follow-up activities to reinforce what you have read.

Through the resources included for each topic, you can also find materials to continue your professional development.  You will also learn from peer-to-peer training, workshops, statewide conferences, and online reading and resources.  And, of course, you will learn from your own hands-on experiences.

Roles of Program Staff and Skills Used.

- Program staff bring expertise in working with employers, schools, youth and community partners.  Staff may come from a background in education, guidance, workforce development, human resources, youth programming, or other related fields.  Staff all bring different skills to the job, and continually develop additional skills and strategies through their work.

- Staff may play many different roles, drawing on many different skills.  Roles include working with school and community partners; working with the employer community to identify job placement opportunities; working with youth to prepare them for work experiences and to match them with placement opportunities; working with both employers to facilitate development of job descriptions, skills/tasks, and performance reviews; entering information into the database; and using information from the database to manage day-to-day work and get ideas for program improvement.

- Like the youth in the our programs, staff exercise a range of career skills, including leadership, interpersonal skills, communication, problem solving, managing information, creativity and critical thinking.

This topic outline provides some of the basic knowledge you need to get started.  Beyond these basics, you can invest time in developing skills in youth development, employer outreach, program design, career development, workplace readiness skills, data management and reporting, and many more areas.


1. Using the Massachusetts Work-Based Learning Plan

Getting Started

Read: Implementing the Work-Based Learning Plan (booklet with red cover; available here to read online)

Read: WBLP Introductory Workshop Exercises

View PowerPoint: Introduction to the Work-Based Learning Plan (There are several versions of this introduction - for youth, for employers, or for general/any audience).

View Video: http://www.massconnecting.org/employers#video

Through the reading, PowerPoint presentations and video, you will become familiar with the purpose of the WBLP; the history of the WBLP; the benefits of using the WBLP, including benefits to the employer, participant and staff; the steps involved in implementing the WBLP; where to find suggestions and ideas about job descriptions, skills and tasks to include in the WBLP; and tips about conducting reviews.

As follow-up:

  • Talk with colleagues in your region or program to learn more about specific steps followed in implementing the WBLP. In your region or program, who usually writes the job description, skills and tasks? Who facilitates the reviews? Are WBLPs created through the database screens, pen-and-paper, or both? Are there any current thoughts about changing the implementation process?
  • For your own notes, create a flowchart showing the steps for creating a WBLP.
  • For your own notes, create a list of 3-5 benefits of using the WBLP.

To Learn More:

  • Subscribe to the Skills Pages Youth Employment Blog and read past articles to read about job description, skills/tasks and other features of WBLPs statewide.
  • In the database, browse the bank of sample job descriptions and skills/tasks to see more examples.
  • In the database, browse the skills reports available from the Reports/Admin menu. Run Report 1: Skill Gain; Report 2A: Skills Used; and Report 7: Job Titles, to get an overview of job placements in your region.
  • Attend conferences and workshops to share best practices with others
  • Read and discuss the "Using the WBLP" workshop handout.

2. Using the Massachusetts Career Ready Database

Getting Started

 

Go to the RESOURCES section of the menu and click to open the PowerPoint Presentations page.  View following three PowerPoint presentations:

 

- Navigating the Database

- Registering and Signing In

- Using the Placement Screen

 

 

As follow-up,

 

  • Create a username and password and sign in. (Note: If you are program staff, check with your regional office or with Jennifer Leonard for an access code. For employer or intern database passwords, the access code is not necessary.)
  • Enter one placement and WBLP. This may be for a real student or a fictional student.
  • Have a colleague review what you have entered.
  • (If the placement is fictional, have your colleague show you how to delete the placement.)
  • Explore http://skillspages.com/masswbl to become familiar with the resources available online

 

To learn more:

  • Go to http://skillspages.com/masswbl to further browse the resources available online
  • Read “Using the Reports/Admin Menu”
  • Go to the Reports/Admin Menu and run and print 2-3 reports as an example.

 


 

3.  Working with Youth, Employers, Schools and Communities

Getting Started

Read: Youth Development Concepts

Read: Synergy and Employer Outreach

Read: Raising Graduation Rates

Read: College and Career Planning

If you are new to Connecting Activities, visit schools in your region with another staff person in order to meet school-based staff and see and hear about key programs in the school.

As a follow-up:

  • With a colleague, write an answer to the following: “In 45 seconds or less, describe what your program offers to employers and youth and schools.”
  • With a colleague, list 2-3 ways that your region’s Connecting Activities program provides “asset-based” programming.
  • With a colleague, list 2-3 things that employers in your community find attractive about Connecting Activities programming.
  • With a colleague, list 2-3 ways that schools benefit from Connecting Activities programming.

To learn more:

1.) Continue reading the links and articles in this section.

2.) Investigate local initiatives in your school and community: what are some of the current local initiatives to support youth, raise graduation rates, and support college and career readiness?

3.) Look for workshops or classes on the topics of interest - youth development, employer outreach, career development, marketing, social media, dropout prevention, or other topics.


4. Forms, Policies and Procedures

Getting Started

1.) Read the Forms, Procedures and Practices page and make a list of any questions to ask your colleagues about forms, practices and procedures in your program.

2.) Visit and review the materials on the ESE "Health and Safety" webpage at http://www.doe.mass.edu/ssce/safety.html and make a list of pages that you would like to spend more time reading and reviewing.

3.) Become familiar with youth employment and workplace safety from the Office of the Attorney General's "Youth Employment Laws" website http://www.laborlowdown.com/.

As a follow-up:

Make a list of three or more ways that youth in your programs receive guidance to protect their safety in the workplace.

Make a list of three or more ways that your program maintains good communication among students, parents, employers and school staff about expectations of the program.

Make a list of any forms, letters or presentation materials that you would like your program to have that it does not currently have. Find out if this website has any materials you can use; whether another program has a model you can adapt; or work to develop new materials.

READ MORE

Continue reading the materials linked from http://www.doe.mass.edu/ssce/safety.html

 


5. Introduction to the Connecting Activities Initiative

Getting Started

Read Article: Background and History

Visit Websites: http://massconnecting.org and http://www.doe.mass.edu/connect

Read: The most recent statewide annual report for Connecting Activities, available from http://massconnecting.org

From this reading you will learn a brief background and history of the Connecting Activities initiative, read about the goals of the initiative and see the most recent statewide statistics, and more.

As follow-up:

  • Meet with colleagues to learn more about how Connecting Activities is structured in your region.
  • Start a folder (electronic or paper) with “who’s who” in your region, including Connecting Activities staff and staff from other programs that you will interact with.

To learn more:

  • Read the Connecting Activities RFR issued by ESE for the current program year (available on the state CommBuys website or available from your regional office) to learn about the goals and requirements of the Connecting Activities initiative. 
  • Read your region’s Connecting Activities proposal (response to the RFR) for the current program year.
  • Read the task force report of the Integrating College and Career Readiness (ICCR) available from the http://massconnecting.org website.

Student working with senior machinist

About this website. This website provides "how-to" information about using the Massachusetts Work-Based Learning Plan and about using the Massachusetts Career Readiness (MA-CR) Database.  The website also provides resources to support the development of youth employment programs, to share information among programs, and to provide ideas for quality youth employment placements.  The site is designed for use by staff, youth and employers in Massachusetts programs that use the Work-Based Learning Plan.   Also -- many of the resources are also valuable for youth employment programs anywhere.

What is the Massachusetts Work-Based Learning Plan? The Massachusetts Work-Based Learning Plan is used to structure youth employment placements, including summer jobs, internships, cooperative education placements, volunteer and service learning experiences, and more.  It is a two-page document (or a series of four screens online), designed as an easy-to-use system for focusing on identifying an assessing the skills developed through worksite learning experiences.  The Work-Based Learning Plan includes a job description, a description of the Employability Skills and Career and Workplace Specific Skills used in the student’s placement and a performance review section.  

Quick Links:

One-page Fact Sheet [PDF]

WBLP Resource Guide [PDF]

Paper Copy of the Massachusetts Work-Based Learning Plan [Word]

PowerPoint Presentations

Database Link: https://masswbl.org


Archived Documents: 

Spanish version of the Massachusetts Work-Based Learning Plan [Word] [older 4-page version]

Portuguese version of the Massachusetts Work-Based Learning Plan [Word] [older 4-page version]


Visit the "What's New in the Database" page (available from the menu along the right) for news and announcements about new database features and about other new resources that complement your work.  The "What's New" announcements are also visible when you sign into the database, displayed on the database welcome page after you sign in.

Share Your Story.  What is your school or community doing to support career development for youth? Share your story via the Massachusetts Connecting Activities website.