Transition From School to Work:

Linking Education and Worksite Training

HRD-91-105: Published: Aug 2, 1991. Publicly Released: Aug 12, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request and a legislative requirement, GAO provided information on U.S. apprenticeship-type programs, focusing on cooperative education (co-op) programs that assist youth in the transition from school to work.

GAO found that: (1) during the 1989-90 school year, about 8 percent of high school juniors and seniors and less than 3 percent of community college students participated in co-op programs; (2) access to such programs is not uniform across rural, suburban, and inner-city areas; (3) key features shared by high-quality programs included written training plans that detailed specific learning objectives, student screening, selection of employers who provided high-quality training in occupations with career paths, and close supervision of students' training by school staff; (4) high school co-op programs offer general employability skills and specific occupational skills training, while community college programs concentrate more on specific occupational skills because these students typically are working toward a 2-year degree; (5) co-op students frequently rotate across a variety of jobs within an organization to gain a broader experience; (6) participation in high-quality co-op programs enhances the likelihood that participants will pursue further education and a majority of co-op employers offered participants permanent employment; (7) factors hindering expanded participation include lack of awareness of such programs, a negative perception of co-op at the high school level, and scheduling and transportation problems; (8) both students and employers express satisfaction with their participation in youth apprenticeship projects that enable participants to enter full-time apprenticeships upon graduation, leading to a certificate that confers journeyman's status; and (9) co-op shares many features with German youth apprenticeship, which is recognized as effective in preparing a skilled young work force.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Education completed the following efforts: (1) A series of seven "Omnibus Surveys" were sent to secondary and postsecondary administrators to determine the availability of cooperative education and other school-to-work programs. The surveys are being analyzed; (2) grants were awarded to demonstrate successful programs to help vocational education students make the transition from school to work. The grants are being monitored by the Office of Vocational and Adult Education; (3) a series of fact sheets on school-to-work transition issues was distributed to the public; and (4) a national conference on linking education and work raised the visibility of school-to-work programs, including cooperative education, and resulted in a report "Combining School and Work: Options in High Schools and Two-Year Colleges."

    Recommendation: To strengthen cooperative education programs, the Department of Education should develop national data and conduct evaluations of high school cooperative education programs to help refine and improve program structure, as well as seek opportunities to promote and expand high-quality cooperative education in our nation's schools.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Carl Perkins II Act authorized the Business and Education Standards Program to create national standards in industries and trades that could be used at the state and local levels to design occupational training programs. The Department of Education awarded grants to nine new projects under this program. Together with the Department of Labor, Education held hearings on developing industry-based skill standards and certification. The Institute for Educational Leadership, an Education grantee, conducted a multiphased study reviewing skill standards and certification programs in the United States.

    Recommendation: To strengthen cooperative education programs, the Department of Education should request states to encourage schools to provide students with completed training plans, together with school and employer assessments, as a form of certification of students' skill attainment. Schools should consider the applicability to training plans of common skill standards being developed under the leadership of the Departments of Education and Labor.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education


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