Strada Report on Work-Based Learning

A recent report by the Strada Education Network examines the career and life impacts of paid internships. Titled The Power of Work-Based Learning, the report notes that “among students who have work-based learning experiences, those with paid internships stand out for their increased earning power, confidence in themselves, and recognition of the value of their education. However, less than one-third of recent graduates were able to participate in a paid internship and disparities persist for women, people of color, first-generation, and low-income graduates—even when taking into account their fields of study. As universities, colleges, and employers increase their partnership to improve the post-graduation outcomes of students, the evidence points to the value of increasing access to paid internships.” Key findings: (1) Paid internships are linked to higher pay after graduation (compared to unpaid internships, practicums, and cooperative learning experiences, which are not similarly linked to higher earnings). (2) Work-based learning is also associated with noneconomic post-graduation success. For example, students who participate in paid internships experience greater confidence in their success in the job market and value their education more highly. (3) Access to paid internships is uneven. “Black and Latino students, women, low-income, and first-generation students are less likely to experience a paid internship,” authors Torpey-Saboe, Leigh, and Clayton note. “Even when controlling for variation across majors, these disparities remain.” In looking to the future, the authors ask: “Given the evidence for the multiple benefits of work-based learning, how can these experiences be scaled and made accessible to more students?” Solutions offered include ensuring that students in non-STEM majors have access to the same high quality of paid internships as do students in STEM disciplines, developing revenue streams to fund those opportunities, and ensuring that underrepresented populations such as low-income, first-generation, and/or students of color are given equitable access. The report is based on data from three sources: The Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study, the Strada-College Pulse December 2021 Survey, and the Strada-Gallup Education Survey. Strada Education Network is a national social impact organization devoted to research, philanthropy, and solutions that align education and careers. Download the report here.