Work-based Learning

Colorado’s labor market is evolving faster than ever, demanding a labor force with a flexible and continuous approach to developing and upgrading skills. Addressing the evolving needs of businesses and ensuring Coloradans have pathways to the middle class requires:

  • Ongoing learning and skill development opportunities for individuals

  • Building and leveraging cross-sector public-private relationships

  • Support for the education and training system in the development of stackable credentials aligned with the demands of industry


We know that one of the most effective ways to prepare individuals for jobs is to give them real world experience. Work-based learning is a strategy that combines skill development with real world training opportunities. Apprenticeships and other work-based learning activities create opportunities for youth and adults to develop the skills needed to succeed.

The Continuum is designed to illustrate the variety of work-based learning activities that can be pursued, as well as the dynamics of which activities are housed primarily within educational entities and which are located on a job site. As practitioners have begun utilizing this tool, it has brought clarity about the roles of different stakeholders and enhanced communication between the partners.

A common lexicon and roadmap for partners to work from is critical to successful work-based learning efforts because the most successful programs require a community working together. Businesses need to partner with educational entities to design and deliver curriculum, workforce centers have a pool of talent ready to connect to opportunities, and economic developers understand what industries need people and how to attract new companies through training programs.

A Thriving Work-Based Learning Community understands the problems plaguing their talent pipeline, recognizes the value in business-led work-based learning as a solution, and works collaboratively to affect systemic change. Work-based Learning Communities can exist in one of four phases: Exploring, Emerging, Demonstrating, and Thriving. The phase a specific community is in is based on the activities that are in place across seven domains: Leadership, Needs Analysis, Asset Mapping, Stakeholders, Resources, Communications, and Evaluation.



The number of initiatives focused on accelerating the creation of work-based learning opportunities continues to grow. To highlight a few of the key initiatives underway in Colorado:

  • CareerWise Colorado is a high school apprenticeship program, which welcomed its inaugural cohort of students this fall, with 121 students apprenticing across 44 businesses in 13 industries. To learn more...

  • Registered Apprenticeships(RAs) through the USDOL Registered Apprentice System, and is working to expand the types of occupations and the number of opportunities in high-demand fields. To learn more...

  • In 2015, House Bill 15-1230 created the Innovative Industries Internships Workforce Development Program, now known as the Innovative Industries Internship Program, to incentivize employers in growing Colorado industries to increase paid internships and support a consistent and experienced talent pipeline. To learn more...

  • Denver Opportunity Youth Initiative, supported by the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, is aimed at providing education, career opportunities and support systems to opportunity youth by partnering with nonprofit, government and business organizations to create a pipeline to meaningful work experiences and careers. To learn more...


Check out these resources to get started today.
We invite you to learn more about the Business Experiential Learning (BEL) Commission and their executive leadership in advancing work-based learning in Colorado.
For more information, please contact