Using the Massachusetts Work-Based Learning Plan

Workshop Exercises


By using the Massachusetts Work-Based Learning Plan, you are joining a network of thousands of employers, students and youth program providers across Massachusetts who are taking initiative to provide enriching on-the-job learning opportunities to youth and adults.

The Work-Based Learning Plan (WBLP) is a tool used in summer jobs, internship and other work experience programs. It is a user-friendly document that includes:

·         A job description;

·         A list of the skills/tasks that are  important in the job or internship;

·         A performance evaluation with ratings, goals and comments.

The Work-Based Learning Plan is a diagnostic, goal-setting and evaluation tool. 

The Massachusetts Work-Based Learning Plan was developed by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education through an interagency collaboration of employers, educators and workforce development professionals.   A first version was created in 1999, and the current version has been in use since 2005.   It is available as a paper document, Microsoft Word document, online screens, and in a mobile web version.   The online screens are user-friendly, and available at  A sign-in screen is also available on the Connecting Activities website at  Resource pages are available at


 Exercise #1:  Benefits of Work-Based Learning

 Read the scenarios on the following page and select one or two scenarios that interest you.  Discuss the following questions:

 ·         What do you want the participant to learn and accomplish during this work experience? 

 ·         How can the participant maximize the learning opportunities provided through this experience?

 ·         How does the use of the Work-Based Learning Plan help to create a successful experience?

 ·         How can the program staff help to create a successful experience? 


Work-Based Learning Scenarios


Tina manages a farm that has a popular farm stand and bakery.  She is enthusiastic about communicating the value of local agriculture to her customers, especially to children and teens in the community.  She is excited to be hiring an employee from the town’s summer jobs program for the first time this year. 


Roger is a chef in a popular family-owned restaurant and serves on the advisory board for the culinary arts program for the local vocational school.  He is also in the midst of re-designing many aspects of the restaurant’s menu in order to provide more gluten-free, vegetarian and low-carb options in response to shifts in customer preferences.  He has agreed to hire two students for ten hours a week. 


Gloria is new in her job as manager in the operations center of a large regional bank.  The operations center does daily, weekly and monthly processes related to check clearing, automatic payments and other important functions, all involving very close attention to detail.  The bank has employed a group of interns every summer for the past ten years.  This will be the first time Gloria has been responsible for supervising the interns. Because of changes in technology, the work that the interns do will be different this summer, and so new job descriptions must be developed. 


Ed is the Deputy Director for Parks and Recreation for a small city.  Each year, the city employs youth summer jobs program participants as landscaping assistants.  The summer jobs program has been difficult over the last several years.  Budget cuts had reduced the number of regular full-time year-round staff, making it hard for the regular staff to find the time needed to pay attention to the summer program, and resulting in many days where the youth employees did not have enough work to do.  Happily, this year, the budget has improved and regular staffing has increased.  Ed is ready to take a fresh look at how to make the summer jobs program more successful.  


Caroline manages a physical therapy clinic and has agreed to provide internships to local students interested in careers in physical therapy.  Because physical therapy requires advanced training, interns will be limited in the work they can do, but she wants them to get a flavor of the work, while playing a useful role in the office.


Matthew is an editor at a small local newspaper and has been asked to provide an internship for a student interested in journalism.  The student is in a semester-long senior internship class that provides credit for a 10-hour-per-week internship. 


Food for Thought: INVESTING IN YOUTH.  Across the country, more and more high school and college students are seeking internships as a way of exploring career options, building a resume, developing career skills, and exploring practical applications of academic skills. Many schools offer credit for work experience and many colleges and employers look favorably on students who have developed strong transferable and career-specific skills through internships, summer jobs, after-school jobs and volunteer work.


How can students, schools and employers be sure these work experiences offer opportunities for high levels of learning and productivity?   In Massachusetts, the School to Career Connecting Activities initiative and other youth employment programs have come together for over a decade to develop tools and resources to support rich work-based learning experiences.  The Massachusetts Work-Based Learning Plan is our tool for achieving this goal.  It was developed collaboratively by youth program staff, employers, educators and workforce professionals and is used by thousands of employers and students each year to structure work-based learning experiences. 

 Exercise #2: Designing the Work Experience: Job Description, Skills and Tasks

A.) Select one of the scenarios presented in Exercise 1 and outline a job description.  Include both special projects and routine day-to-day responsibilities.

B.) Select one of the scenarios presented in Part 1 and select up to seven skills that would be included in a WBLP, drawing from the list below or adding additional skills specific to each workplace.  Describe some of the projects, tasks and performance expectations relevant to these skills.   


Career and Workplace-Specific Skills

Career Skills:

Collecting and Organizing Information

Computer Technology


Critical Thinking

Customer Service

Equipment Operation

Interacting with Customers or Clients



Problem Solving

Project Management


Research and Analysis

Teaching and Instructing

Time Management




Career Management Skills:

Active Learning

Career Awareness

Reflection / Journal Writing

Understanding All Aspects of the Industry

Environmental Awareness

Health Literacy

Media Literacy


Occupation Specific Skills:

Accounting Skills

Animal Care

Blueprint Reading

Culinary Skills


Food Safety





 Exercise #3.  Performance Reviews and Goal Setting

Consider the following scenarios.  How would you address this participant’s performance?   What skill(s) are relevant to these scenarios, and how can the foundation skills rubric help you with the performance review?  What suggestions or feedback would you provide to the participant?




Katie is working as an assistant in a 1st grade classroom, doing reading practice with one or two students at a time.  She is often having trouble keeping the attention of the students she works with: the students are often getting out of their seats, playing with toys, or just fidgeting and not listening or reading the story. 


Margaret is working as a landscaping assistant but has admitted that she doesn’t really enjoy working outdoors.  She spends a lot of time talking, walking around, and doing things other than working.


Nancy is working in a bank for the summer, and it is now the end of the second week.  She has been about five or ten minutes late to work, about two or three times each week.


Harold has been working as an intern in a restaurant kitchen and has made several errors after not following verbal instructions.  He has apologized and acknowledged that he misunderstood the instructions.


Veronica, a high school student, is working as a web design intern.  As an intern, she plays a supporting role on the web design team, and is being exposed to all aspects of web design.  However, as a self-taught web designer, she is surprised (and a little disappointed) that she is not working more independently to design and develop web pages.



Exercise #4: Marketing the Youth Employment Program

 Read the dialogue below and discuss:  What would you include in a list of “top five reasons to hire youth”? 


Maria and Henry are working on a marketing campaign for the local youth employment program, which will include a list of “Top Five Reasons” to hire youth this summer.  Maria works for the Chamber of Commerce and Henry works for a local marketing firm. 


Maria: I want to start with benefits to the employer, and then describe benefits to the youth and community.


Henry: Okay – when you say benefits to the employer, do you mean to the company or to the individual manager or supervisor who will be working with the youth?


Maria:  Good question – we probably want to focus on both.


Henry:  The manager who works with youth gets a lot of personal and professional benefit.  I’ve always found that my own creativity and productivity goes up with I work with another person.  Having an assistant helps me to get more organized, break my work into steps, and more clearly articulate my goals and strategies. 


Maria:  I know what you mean.  Last summer when we had an intern working with us on the website we made a lot of progress once we organized the project into specific tasks.  And it was fun to share our thoughts with the intern, who was a great kid, very enthusiastic.


Henry:  We had an intern last summer also.  I think it was good public relations for the company: I would see clients light up when they saw that we had a high school student working with us for the summer.  People like knowing that a company is community-minded.


Maria: I’ve noticed that a lot of Chamber of Commerce member companies seem to really like the idea of students as ambassadors for their industries.  Last summer, a food manufacturer designed a really great internship around marketing and public relations for their products.  And there’s a high tech company that offers an internship position every school year and also does company tours for high school students to teach students about careers in their industry. 


Henry:  This is great – I think the list is really starting to take shape.  What about benefits to youth?  What do you think we should focus on there?


Maria:  I’d like to focus on youth as assets to the community.  I’d emphasize the idea that by offering jobs and internships, employers are supporting youth development – allowing youth to contribute to the community and to the company or organization, and helping them to develop skills and build a resume. 


Henry:  I like that approach.  I’m going to go back and draft up the list and I’ll talk to you tomorrow. 


Maria:  Great!  I just want to add that we should include something about the support that employers get from the program staff.  All of the youth employment programs in the city provide orientation and workshops for the students use the Work-Based Learning Plan to structure the experience.  The staff are always available to help with brainstorming, problem solving and whatever else is needed.



Exercise #5:  Job Design and Performance Review

 Read the dialogue below and discuss:

 What are some strategies that help to make the performance review useful and informative for the student and supervisor?

  • How does a strong job design (job description, skills/tasks) help interns to work productively and be successful in their work experience?  How does a strong job design lead to meaningful performance reviews?


John and Vanessa are coordinators for a summer jobs program, discussing the upcoming performance reviews for the students in the landscaping crew that Vanessa oversees.


John:  How has the project been going so far?


Vanessa:  Honestly, I hate to say it, but not very well.  I’m getting ready for the first reviews, and a lot of the interns are not doing well.


John:  Tell me more.


Vanessa:  Last summer was so great – almost magical.  All the crew members got along and worked steadily.  The supervisor was great and everyone loved him.


John:  And this summer?


Vanessa:  No magic.  Lots of issues with motivation, pace of work, attendance, lateness, all the headaches that I didn’t have to worry about last year.  The heat wave didn’t help.  And we’ve had some delays in some of the special projects we want to do, so we’ve mostly had the kids weeding and raking. 


John:  Do you hope the rest of the summer could be better?


Vanessa:  Yes, of course.  The weather has improved, and we finally have the special projects starting up next week.  We’ll be building some new garden beds and installing signage around the park.  That will be more engaging than weeding and raking.  But we do still need the kids to continue with the weeding and raking…. They won’t be doing special projects all the time.


John:  How about the performance reviews?


Vanessa:  I’ve given a lot of thought to the reviews and I think I’m ready to give constructive feedback.  Last year I just gave a lot of 4’s and 5’s.  But this year I’m paying more attention to the rubric and to areas of strength and weakness. 


John:  What type of feedback?


Vanessa:  I want to use the performance review as an opportunity to launch conversations about motivation and professionalism.  I know that 4’s and 5’s are based taking initiative to develop and utilize skills and on making a contribution to the organization.  That’s not happening so far, but it can.  While most of this group of interns will see 1’s, 2’s and 3’s in the first review, I can explain how those can become 3’s, 4’s and 5’s in the second review. 


John:  Are you are comfortable giving 1’s and 2’s?


Vanessa:  I think I need to start out by telling each student that the number itself isn’t important – it’s not like a final grade.  It’s the conversation that is important.   The performance review should be a time to talk about goals for the rest of the summer and talk about the projects coming up and how the students can make a significant difference in the park.


John:  I know that they do care about the park, and lots of them mentioned in their job applications how much time they’ve spent in the park and how much they care about it.  


Vanessa:  True.  That’s something I can mention. 


John:  Who is going to be at the performance review?


Vanessa:  On this worksite, I sit with the supervisor and each intern to do the review.  At some of the other worksites that I manage it’s just the supervisor and intern as a one-on-one meeting.  It’s always a face-to-face meeting with the intern.



 Exercise #4: Dialogue

 In the following dialogue, a supervisor, Carl, is meeting with an intern, Thea, for a first performance review.  The supervisor provides both positive and corrective feedback.  After reading the dialogue, discuss.  What factors made this review comfortable for the supervisor and intern?  Were any aspects of the review difficult? 



Thea is working as an office intern at an insurance office.  Carl is meeting with Thea for a performance review using the Work-Based Learning Plan.


Thea:  Good morning Carl.  Is this a good time to meet to do my performance review?


Carl:  Yes, that’s right, we said 10:00.  Thanks for coming by.  I filled out the performance review online, so let me take a second to open it up on my tablet.


Thea:  OK.


Carl:  OK, here it is. 


Thea: I appreciate you taking the time to do this.


Carl:  No problem!  So I looked at the information that you gave me, and I see that it’s a 5-point rating scale, with the 3 as the basic “competent” rating.  That’s similar to some other workplace review systems I’ve used.


Thea:  Oh yes.  In the workshop I attended they explained the rating scale.


Carl:  So here are my comments on the skill areas.  I’m going to start at the end of the list, with technology.  Madeline mentioned to me that you studied the documentation for our database system and asked her some good questions.  You seem to be comfortable with the database, and the data you’ve entered is accurate. I rated this as a 4 for going the extra mile to develop your skills. 


Thea:  Thank you.


Carl: The biggest challenge was around attendance, which I rated as 2 for needs development.  I know that you had some challenging situations, and I appreciate that you kept me informed about the reasons you missed days.  But the focus of a workplace evaluation is on your performance at work; and ultimately an employee has to work out any issues as much as possible in order to minimize days off.  So the “needs development” rating just says that it’s something you can develop and improve.


Thea:  I understand.  I hope that I will have better attendance for the rest of the internship.


Carl:  The other area that I rated as “needs development” was around motivation and taking initiative.  On one hand, when you’ve had a project to work on, you put lots of energy and enthusiasm into the task.  But on the other hand, when you don’t have an immediate task, it would be helpful if you would check in with one of us, either with Madeline or me or one of the other staff in the unit. Once you’ve been here longer, you’ll have a few more tasks that can fill in any down time between projects.  Madeline and I can do more to make sure you have enough tasks and projects; and you can also take more initiative to make sure you have something productive to do throughout each day that you are here. 


Thea:  Mmm.  That makes sense.  


Carl:  One of the areas where you are strong is Speaking. We’ve appreciated the help you provided in greeting customers when the receptionist is at lunch and making the customers feel welcome.  We have heard praise from some of the customers and other staff, and rated this as a 4, for the energy you put into it and the positive impact on the customers. 


Thea:  Oh good, thank you!


Carl:   One of the other skills on the list is Data Analysis.  So far you’ve done good work with the charts we’ve given you to work on; I hope to give you some more challenging work going forward.  So this is a 3 for competent; with room to grow as we go along.


Carl:  I’ll print this out so you can look it over and sign it.  Do you have any questions or any ideas for the rest of the semester?


Thea:  Yes, Madeline suggested that I ask you about getting a chance to listen in on a webinar about the database.


Carl:  Oh yes, that’s a good idea.  I’ll make a note about a webinar as a goal.  We can schedule that.  I think they have one coming up next week. 



 About the Massachusetts Career Ready Database

 The Massachusetts Career Ready Database (MACR) is found at   A sign-in page is also available on the Connecting Activities website at  Resource pages are found at  This database is used by a variety of programs across Massachusetts, including the School to Career Connecting Activities program and many of the Cooperative Education programs, YouthWorks, WIA Youth, local summer jobs programs, transition programs and many other youth programs.  

 The database provides:

  • a placement screen for recording and managing placement information;
  • screens for each section of the WBLP:
    • job description
    • skills/tasks
    • performance reviews
  • a rubric for evaluating foundation skills 
  • a bank of sample job descriptions and skills/tasks
  • a menu of reports
  • additional sections, including an activity screen for career development activities and an employer screen for employer information.


Here are some key points about the database:


·         SIGNING UP. Sign up for a username and password at   When you sign up to use the database, you can sign up as as staff, employer or intern.  If you are signing up for a staff account, you'll need an access code (available from your regional office or from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).


·         SHARING and PRIVACY. The database is designed to facilitate collaboration, while maintaining privacy and confidentiality.  You can collaborate with co-workers, supervisors, participants or teachers to write and view WBLPs.  There are two ways to share information with others. 1.) When you sign up to use the online WBLP, you can list the email (username) of up to three co-workers with whom you want to share all the information you enter. 2.) As you fill in each WBLP, you can list the email (username) of the participant, supervisor, program staff and/or teacher or other contact person, and give them access to view and/or work on the WBLP. 


·         NAVIGATING IN THE DATABASE.  Navigation in the database is intuitive.  You will start at a main menu page, and from there, click a button to start a new record.  Or you will click the buttons to open existing records.  You can navigate to the placement screen (which provides basics about the job placement) to the job description, skills, and reviews screens.  Staff also have access to a reports menu with summary reports and lists.  All database users also have access to a "bank" of sample job descriptions and skills/tasks.  Feel free to explore to learn more about the database.


Food for Thought: GATHERING INFORMATION.   The value of a database lies in the ways that it makes routine processes easier, facilitates collaboration and communication, and provides useful information to an organization’s staff, customers, board of directors, funders and other audiences. 


The Massachusetts Career Ready Database is designed to support youth program staff in their basic work:


-          Writing, saving and re-using Work-Based Learning Plans;

-          Managing information about placements;

-          Managing information about employers and other partners;

-          Managing information about career development experiences, including not only work experiences but also a variety of other career awareness, career exploration and career immersion experiences. 


The information that flows from this work provides lots of opportunities for analysis and further use.  Insights from the data can help to guide design of future career development and work-based experiences, support employer outreach, and provide insights into the connections between classroom and workplace learning.