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State & Federal Legislation

Work-Based Learning in Federal Legislation

Federal legislation references work-based learning (WBL) in the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V), the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA). Click on the links to access the full text of the legislation or read more below.

WBL in Perkins

Perkins V defines WBL and uses the term in many sections, including in reference to state plans, programs of study, and collaboration among secondary schools, postsecondary institutions, and employers. The law also includes participation in WBL as one of three indicators of program quality that states may select to report.


ESSA references WBL in three separate sections. In Section 1112, the legislation states that local education agency plans should describe support for WBL programs to provide students with exposure to industry professionals and the option to earn academic credit. Section 2103 includes professional development for teachers and administrators on WBL instruction as an allowable use of local funds. Finally, Section 4203 lists WBL as a possible indicator of career readiness at the secondary school level for the purpose of state applications for federal funds.


WIOA mentions WBL in reference to Job Corps and Vocational Rehabilitation programs. Section 148 describes WBL as a required activity of Job Corps centers, with WBL provided in locations that comply with occupational safety and health guidelines (Section 159). Additionally, Section 418 amends legislation on the use federal vocational rehabilitation funds for training and services for employers to include working with employers to design WBL activities for individuals with disabilities. Section 422 amends the description of pre-employment services for individuals with disabilities to include WBL as a required activity.

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