Career Preparatory Experiences

Supporting Evidence & Research

The Career Preparatory Experiences standards and indicators are based on sound evidence and research that supports their utility in the field. The information below identifies and presents research, federal government documents, commissioned reports, and other sources that serve as the foundation upon which these standards are based. This compilation should not be viewed as all-inclusive, but rather as illustrative of the range of research and expert analysis currently available. See more about the research.

Youth Benefit from Career Preparatory Activities in Schools and Communities

Several positive academic and vocational effects are attributed to school-based career development—specifically, career advising and curriculum-based interventions such as computer-based career guidance. These positive effects include higher grades, better relationships with teachers, increased career planning, greater knowledge of careers, improved self-esteem, improved self-knowledge, and less career indecision (Hughes & Karp, 2004; Lapan, Gysbers, & Sun, 1997).

Participating in Career and Technical Education (CTE) results in short- and medium-term earning benefits for most students at both the secondary and postsecondary levels and increased academic course taking and achievement by students, including students with disabilities (Castellano, Stone, Stringfield, Farley, & Wayman, 2004; Plank, 2001; Stone & Aliaga, 2003). Those who complete both a strong academic curriculum and a vocational program of study (dual concentrators) may have better outcomes than those who pursue one or the other (Silverberg, Warner, Fong, & Goodwin, 2004; Plank, 2001; Stone & Aliaga, 2003). CTE participants are more likely to graduate from high school (Schargel & Smink, 2001; Smink & Schargel, 2004), be employed in higher paying jobs, and enroll in postsecondary education (Hughes, Bailey, & Mechur, 2001).

The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998 reinforces the need for career preparatory experiences for all youth. WIA services include: (a) comprehensive career development services based on individualized assessment and planning, (b) youth connections and access to the One-Stop career center system, and (c) performance accountability focused on employment.

While work experiences are beneficial to all youth, they are particularly valuable for youth with disabilities (Blackorby & Wagner, 1996; Colley & Jamison, 1998; Kohler, 1993; Kohler & Rusch, 1995; Luecking & Fabian, 2000; Mooney & Scholl, 2004; Morningstar, 1997; Rogan, 1997; Wehman, 1996). Youth who participate in occupational education and special education in integrated settings are more likely to be competitively employed than youth who have not participated in such activities (Blackorby & Wagner, 1996; Colley & Jamison, 1998; Luecking & Fabian, 2000; Mooney & Scholl, 2004; Rogan, 1997).

Activities in School-Based and Community Settings

Standard 2.1
Youth participate in career awareness, exploration, and preparatory activities in school- and community-based settings.

Career preparation components that are related to positive secondary and postsecondary school outcomes include: (a) opportunities for both school-based and community-based experiences that expose youth to a broad array of career paths, experiences, and occupations; (b) opportunities for youth to build relevant skills, academic knowledge, and personal competencies required in the workplace and for continued education; and (c) opportunities for youth to tailor their career experiences to meet their individual needs (American Youth Policy Forum & Center for Workforce Development, 2000; Castellano, Stringfield, Stone & Lewis, 2002).

School-based and community-based career preparatory activities provide the skills and knowledge young people need to make more informed decisions, to progress toward postsecondary education, and to be successful in a career (National Commission on the High School Senior Year, 2001). Career preparatory activities also provide youth with the opportunity to test academic theories through real-world applications (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2003). Contextual learning is at the core of career preparatory activities; community-based learning helps youth to build upon their life experiences and apply existing knowledge at the workplace (Pierce & Jones, 1998). Additionally, such activities allow students to see the practical value of the high school curriculum (National Research Council & Institute of Medicine, 2004).

Quality career development goes beyond simple academic or vocational guidance to help align academic experiences with student interests and strengths, learning preferences, and education goals. Through activities such as career awareness in the elementary years and career exploration in secondary grades, youth not only learn about a variety of careers and occupations but also begin to identify the skills required to succeed in these areas, allowing them to make better-informed career decisions (American Youth Policy Forum & Center for Workforce Development, 2000; Castellano, Stringfield, Stone & Lewis, 2002).

Integrated Career Development Activities

Standard 2.2
Academic and non-academic courses and programs include integrated career development activities.

Effective career development approaches that integrate academic and non-academic components include:

  1. A process for career planning and goal setting (Benz, Yovanoff, & Doren, 1997; Goldberger, Keough, & Almeida, 2001),
  2. Alignment of school-based career preparatory experiences with employer and occupational requirements and with postsecondary education plans (Bremer & Madzar, 1995; Carnevale & Desrochers, 2003; Haimson & Bellotti, 2001), and
  3. Teaching of basic skills needed for career success and growth (Haimson & Bellotti, 2001; Luecking & Fabian, 2000; Phelps & Hanley-Maxwell, 1997).

Meaningful School- and Community-based Work Experiences

Standard 2.3
Schools and community partners provide youth with opportunities to participate in meaningful school- and community-based work experiences.

Through partnerships with employers, schools are able to provide a range of learning experiences for students. Nearly 55% offer job shadowing, 44% offer co-op programs, 40% provide school-based enterprises, 35% provide mentoring activities, and 34% offer student internships (Medrich, Ramer, Merola, Moskovitz, & White, 1998). With the number of school/employer partnerships on the rise, participating businesses are now recognizing that improved work-based learning for youth means better-prepared future employees, reduced recruitment costs for firms, and reduced employee turnover (Wills, 1998).

Components of meaningful school- and community-based work experiences include high-quality work experiences, careful planning to match work experiences with each youth’s interests and assets, linkages between work experience and academic content or school curriculum, and individual supports and accommodations (American Youth Policy Forum & Center for Workforce Development, 2000; Benz et al., 1997; Bremer & Madzar, 1995; Colley & Jamison, 1998; Goldberger et al., 2001; Haimson & Bellotti, 2001; Luecking & Fabian, 2000; Mooney & Scholl, 2004; Phelps & Hanley-Maxwell, 1997; Scholl & Mooney, 2005).

Acquisition of Employability and Technical Skills, Knowledge, and Behaviors

Standard 2.4
Schools and community partners provide career preparatory activities that lead to youths’ acquisition of employability and technical skills, knowledge, and behaviors.

Work-based learning is an integral part of the academic curriculum, reinforcing academic and occupational skills learned in the classroom, providing career exploration and a broad understanding of an occupation or industry, motivating students, introducing generic workplace skills, and teaching entry-level technical skills (American Youth Policy Forum & Center for Workforce Development, 2000). Working closely with employers allows schools to define the knowledge and skills necessary for graduates to successfully perform in college and the workplace (Achieve, 2004).

Through formal and informal work-based learning, students begin to apply academic knowledge to workplace settings and gain greater respect for and facility in the types of learning required by the workplace. Students acquire skills and develop attitudes that are critical to on-the-job success, including (a) an understanding that learning often is related to a clear and meaningful goal, (b) the need for quality and the consequences of compromised quality, (c) critical thinking, (d) different approaches to problem-solving, (e) the importance of immediate feedback for learning and improvement, (f) improved skills for working in teams, (g) appreciation of the importance of deadlines, and (h) a higher motivation to examine a particular subject more deeply (Center for Workforce Development, 1998).

Strategies leading to the acquisition of employability and technical knowledge, skills, and attitudes include:

  1. Instruction in employability skills (Bremer & Madzar, 1995; Kohler, 1994; Phelps & Hanley-Maxwell, 1997);
  2. Assessments of career interests and abilities (Bailey & Hughes, 1999; Hamilton & Hamilton, 1997; Phelps & Hanley-Maxwell, 1997),
  3. Exposure to and understanding of workplace expectations and conditions (Luecking & Fabian, 2000; Phelps & Hanley-Maxwell, 1997);
  4. Life skills instruction and development in areas such as self-determination, self-evaluation, planning, and social-behavioral skills (Kohler, 1994; Phelps & Hanley-Maxwell, 1997); and
  5. Job-seeking activities (Phelps & Hanley-Maxwell, 1997).


Achieve, Inc. (2004). The expectations gap: A 50-state review of high school graduation requirements. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved May 24, 2005, from

American Youth Policy Forum & Center for Workforce Development. (2000, June). Looking forward: School-to-work principles and strategies for sustainability. Washington, DC: Authors.

Bailey, T., & Hughes, K. (1999). Employer involvement in work-based learning programs. Berkeley, CA: National Center for Research in Vocational Education.

Benz, M., Yovanoff, P., & Doren, B. (1997). School-to-work components that predict postschool success for students with and without disabilities. Exceptional Children, 63(2), 155-165.

Blackorby, J., & Wagner, M. (1996). Longitudinal outcomes for youth with disabilities: Findings from the National Longitudinal Transition Study. Exceptional Children, 62(5), 399-413.

Bremer, C. D., & Madzar, S. (1995). Encouraging employer involvement in youth apprenticeship and other work-based learning experiences for high school students. Journal of Vocational and Technical Education, 12(1), 15-26. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from

Carnevale, A. P., & Derochers, D. M. (2003). Standards for what? The economic root of K-16 reform. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.

Castellano, M., Stone, J.R., Stringfield, S., Farley, E.N., & Wayman, J.C. (2004, July). The effect of CTE-enhances whole-school reform on student coursetaking and performance in English and science. Columbus, OH: National Research Center for Career and Technical Education, University of Minnesota.

Castellano, M., Stringfield, S., Stone, J.R., & Lewis, M.V. (2002). Career and technical education reforms and comprehensive school reforms in high school: Their impact on education outcomes for at-risk youth. The Highlight Zone: Research@Work no. 8, St. Paul, MN: National Research Center for Career and Technical Education, University of Minnesota.

Center for Workforce Development. (1998). The teaching firm: Where productive work and learning converge. Newton, MA: Education Development Center, Inc.

Colley, D. A., & Jamison, D. (1998). Postschool results for youth with disabilities: Key indicators and policy implications. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 21(2), 145-160.

Goldberger, S., Keough, R., & Almeida, C. (2001). Benchmarks for success in high school education: Putting data to work in school-to-careers education reform. Providence, RI: The Education Alliance, Brown University.

Haimson, J., & Bellotti, J. (2001). Schooling in the workplace: Increasing the scale and quality of work-based learning. Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.

Hamilton , M., & Hamilton, S. (1997). Learning well at work: Choices for quality. New York: Cornell University Press.

Hughes, K. L., Bailey, T. R., & Mechur, M. J. (2001). School-to-work: Making a difference in education: A research report to America. New York: Columbia University Teachers College, Institute on Education and the Economy.

Hughes, K. L. & Karp, M. M. (2004, February). School-based career development: A synthesis of the literature. New York: Columbia University, Teachers College, Institute on Education and the Economy.

Kohler, P. D. (1993). Best practices in transition: Substantiated or implied? Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 16(2), 107-121.

Kohler, P. D. (1994). A taxonomy for transition programming. Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois, Transition Research Institute.

Kohler, P. D. & Rusch, F. (1995). School to work transition: Identification of employment related outcomes and activity indicators. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 18, 33-50.

Lapan, R.T., Gysbers, N.C., & Sun, Y. (1997). The impact of more fully implemented guidance programs on the school experiencees of high school students: A statewide evaluation study. Journal of Counseling & Development, 75, 292-302.

Luecking, R., & Fabian, E. S. (2000). Paid internships and employment success for youth in transition. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 23(2), 205-221.

Medrich, E., Ramer, C., Merola, L., Moskovitz, R., & White, R. (1998). School-to-work progress measures: A report to the national school-to-work office. Berkeley, CA: MPR Associates, Inc.

Mooney, M., & Scholl, L. (2004, Spring). Students with disabilities in Wisconsin youth apprenticeship programs: Supports and accommodations. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 27(1), 7-26.

Morningstar, M. (1997). Critical issues in career development and employment preparation for adolescents with disabilities. Remedial and Special Education, 18(5), 307-320.

National Commission on the High School Senior Year. (2001). Raising our sights: No high school senior left behind. Princeton, NJ: Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from

National Research Council & Institute of Medicine. (2004). Engaging Schools: Fostering High School Students’ Motivation to Learn. Committee on Increasing High School Students’ Engagement and Motivation to Learn. Board on Children, Youth, and Families, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2003). Learning for the 21st century: A report and mile guide for 21st century skills. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from

Phelps, L. A., & Hanley-Maxwell, C. (1997). School-to-work transition for youth with disabilities: A review of outcomes and practices. Review of Educational Research, 67(2), 197-226.

Pierce, J. W., & Jones, B. F. (1998). Contextual teaching and learning: Preparing teachers to enhance student success in the workplace and beyond. Columbus, OH: ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from

Plank, S. (2001). Career and technical education in the balance: An analysis of high school persistence, academic achievement, and postsecondary destinations. St. Paul, MN: National Research Center for Career and Technical Education, University of Minnesota.

Rogan, P. (1997). Review and analysis of postschool follow-up results: 1996-1997 Indiana postschool follow-up. Indianapolis, IN: Indiana Department of Education.

Silverberg, M., Warner, E., Fong, M., & Goodwin, D. (2004, June). National assessment of vocational education: Final report to Congress: Executive summary. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of the Under Secretary, Policy and Program Studies Service.

Schargel, F., & Smink, J. (2001). Strategies to help solve our school dropout problem. Larchmont, NV: Eye on Education, Inc.

Scholl, L., & Mooney, M. (Spring, 2005). Students with learning disabilities in work-based learning programs: Factors that influence success. The Journal for Vocational Special Needs Education.

Smink, J., & Schargel, F.P. (2004). Helping students graduate: A strategic approach to dropout prevention. Larchmont, NV: Eye on Education, Inc.

Stone, J.R., & Aliaga, O.A. (2003). Career and technical education, career pathways, and work-based learning: Changes in participation 1997-1999. St. Paul, MN: National Research Center for Career and Technical Education, University of Minnesota.

Wehman, P. (1996). Life beyond the classroom: Transition strategies for young people with disabilities. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.

Wills, J. L. (1998). Employers talk about building school-to-work systems: Voices from the field. Washington, DC: American Youth Policy Forum & Center for Workforce Development, Institute for Educational Leadership.

Other Resources:

Houghton, T., & Proscio, T. (n.d.). Hard work on soft skills: Creating a “culture of work” in workforce development. Philadelphia, PA: Public/Private Ventures.

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