Washougal, WA — When Washougal High School senior Federico Pineda enters his classroom, he wears a uniform and takes his place behind the register or food line at the Washougal Taco Bell. Pineda is one of around 20 WHS students who are participating in the Worksite Learning (WSL) program that connects the knowledge and skills students learn in Career and Technical Education (CTE) classrooms with what they learn in the workplace.
“Worksite Learning is an amazing partnership between our students, their employer, and us as educators,” explained Margaret Rice, Washougal School District CTE Director. “We have the opportunity to bring focused learning to the workplace and support our business partners in teaching our students, who are their employees, what they need to know to be successful at their job.”
Through WSL, WHS Students earn school credit while working at a job that connects to a CTE class they have taken or are currently enrolled in. In addition, they are required to meet all graduation credit requirements and fit the job in their class schedule.
Pineda is in his second year participating in WSL. “I work a lot, so I took advantage of the chance to earn high school credit for the hours I am working,” he explained. “Worksite Learning allows me to have one less class period so less classwork and more time to work on assignments from other classes. That has helped me to get all As and Bs right now.”
Having more patience is the skill that Federico has learned while on the job. “You need to stop and understand what is going on before jumping to conclusions,” he said. He also trained new employees and that too takes patience.
Currently there are 17 local businesses employing our WSL students. “Over the years we have had students at 35 different places of business,” said Kathy Scobba, WHS Career Specialist and Worksite Learning Coordinator.
“I have discovered there are many supervisors and managers who thrive on hiring high school students for entry-level positions and work to teach them not only the tasks of the job, but leadership and 21st-century workforce skills,” Scobba explained. “These employers help their student employees create a strong work foundation, so they are valuable, contributing workers not only for this job but for their future career.”
Scobba believes it is important for these students to know that there are more than high school teachers and their parents that feel it is important to help them develop into productive citizens. “It takes a village,” she said.
Jackson Lynch started his Worksite Learning in September 2021 and is a Pizza Hut Team Member in Washougal. “I prefer the experience of real-life situations
at work instead of classes,” said Jackson. “Through Worksite Learning you get to learn things that you just don’t do in regular school.” Jackson has honed his customer service skills through this work experience.
“Whether it is specific industry skills or essential 21st Century Skills which transfer across all industries, on-the-job training is a great way to learn,” said Rice. “For our students, they not only benefit from the focused learning and job skills related to future career goals, but they can earn high school and college credit at the same time. It’s a win-win-win all the way around.”
Emma Beaudoin, WHS Junior, started her Worksite Learning in October 2021 and is an office assistant at Northwest Supported Living in Vancouver. “I actually started working there during remote learning,” Emma said. “The Worksite Learning program helped me keep that going. It is great to be able to earn money and get credit toward graduation. I’d be lost without work.”
The job has helped Emma pick up a wide set of 21st Century Skills. “I have learned communication skills, customer service, and data entry,” she said. “I think I learned these things more quickly with one-on-one time from my manager who is there to personally help me. My office skills keep moving forward.”
“We find that supervisors have been a positive influence in the development of the student’s work skills while making sure they are doing well in school,” said Scobba. “The connection to the school reinforces the importance of graduating from high school, their training and opportunities to further meaningful job skills.”
To participate, WSL students are responsible to find their own job and do the research to determine if they are eligible to participate. They must be willing to learn organizational skills and time management, complete a learning plan and have employer evaluations. Students interested in WSL should contact the WHS Career Center for more information.