Aligning Linked Learning with Market Trends

Posted on by Cailin

Raúl Chavez's research interests include emerging adults and employment issues, vocational identity development, and social policy analysis.

Raúl is a second-year doctoral student at the School of Social Welfare. He has over eight combined years of public service experience at the FBI, CIA, US Department of Health and Human Services, and County of Los Angeles. 

As a PLUS fellow with the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) and the Association of Bay Area Governments, I am working to aggregate data, information, and knowledge from various sources to make recommendations for how the OUSD can strengthen its relationships with employers as part of its work-based learning program. The OUSD’s Linked Learning Program has become even more integral to the successful school-to-work transition of Oakland’s youth in light of the recent economic problems that have exposed the tenuousness of youth labor market attachment.

To ensure that I gain a holistic understanding of the Linked Learning Program so that my recommendations are both appropriate for OUSD students and enforceable for OUSD administrators, I have divided up my research process into four stages. For each stage, my goal has been to find relevant sources of secondary data, to identify the appropriate sources of broader information, and to speak with the proper OUSD administrators for insider knowledge. It is my hope that such a process will allow me to apply theory to practice in a manner that is specific to the City of Oakland and all of the actors involved in improving the school-to-work outcomes of students.

One realization I have had in the course of the project thus far is that each of the four stages has required a different focus to my fact-finding strategy. During the first stage, my goal was to learn as much as possible about the Linked Learning program in Oakland’s high schools. As such, I relied extensively on OUSD personnel for information and knowledge, including reports on the structure of the Linked Learning Program and on student demographics and graduation rates, as well as interviews with administrators to learn more about the non-quantifiable aspects of the program. The second stage consisted of learning as much as possible about the regional job growth trends to be able to ground my future recommendations in economic realities. This demanded acquiring as much secondary data as possible, including from sources such as the US Department of Labor, as well as reports by regional economic and business associations on the economic future of the region. For the third stage, I have conducted a literature review on work-based learning with a focus on why employers choose to participate in such programs and what they look for in students and think of their skills. My aim is to consider the empirical research and any relevant theoretical aspects to frame my future recommendations.

The fourth stage has proven to be the most challenging. I knew at the beginning of this project that having the time to collect my own data by speaking with local employers about their experiences would prove to be quite ambitious. Nonetheless, with the help of a OUSD administrator, I recently gained access to employer evaluations that will give me the employer insight I know I need to turn this project into a successful one. My challenge now is to package my analysis of all of this data, information, and knowledge in a way that goes beyond being informative to the OUSD, for I want to make sure the deliverable is utilizable on a regular basis.

Source: Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy (2012)

Source: Office of Technology Assessment (1995)