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New York State Education Department-Approved Work-Based Learning Programs


Approximately 18,000 New York State high school students participate in State-approved experiential/work-based learning programs. Approved New York State experiential/work-based learning programs are divided into two primary categories – paid experiences and non-paid experiences. Within the paid category, there are three available programs: the Cooperative Occupational Education Work Experience Program (CO-OP); the General Education Work Experience Program (GEWEP); and the Work Experience and Career Exploration Program (WECEP). In the non-paid category, the only State-approved program is the Career Exploration Internship Program (CEIP). All of the above programs require a commitment from the educational agency to provide the proper supervision, coordination, counseling, and instruction. Specific guidelines for each experiential/work-based learning program are available from the Department. Since experiential/work-based learning must meet certain federal and State guidelines concerning the placement of minors into work-based environments, the local coordinator must be knowledgeable about employment certificates, the Fair Labor Standards Act, wage and hour regulations, fringe benefits, prohibited hazardous occupations, and a host of other regulations. When providing community-based vocational education programs for students with disabilities, there are many additional requirements to consider. The following general guidelines need to be followed when implementing any of the experiential/work-based learning programs:

  • The Board of Education must act to establish the specific experiential/work-based learning program as an option for students;
  • Students must be placed in accordance with all federal and State labor laws;
  • A written memorandum of agreement and a training plan must be in effect among each participating student, the sponsoring business, and the educational agency;
  • All participating students are meeting or have met academic requirements for graduation; and
  • Experiential/work-based learning programs for classified special education students are integrated with the transition component of the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), and appropriate accommodations should be provided to ensure proper access and participation in the program.

The various State-approved programs are outlined below:

Cooperative Occupational Education Work Experience Program (CO-OP)

A program for students age 16 and above, consisting of 150 to 600 hours of paid, school-supervised work experience, supported by related in-school instruction in an occupational education discipline. Students may earn to 2 units of credit towards an occupational education sequence and graduation. This program must be registered with the New York State Education Department.

General Education Work Experience Program (GEWEP)

A program for students age 16 and above, applicable in schools that do not have a CO-OP program, or in districts with populations in need of a viable alternative to the CO-OP program. GEWEP consists of 150 to 600 hours of paid, school-supervised work experience, supported by at least one period per week of related in-school instruction/counseling. Students may earn to 2 units of local elective credit towards graduation. This program must be registered with the New York State Education Department.

Work Experience and Career Exploration Program (WECEP)

A program of paid work experience for 14 and 15-year old students designated, according to suggested criteria, as being at-risk and able to benefit from such a program. It is very similar in structure and operation to the General Education Work Experience Program. This program must be registered with the New York State Education Department.

Career Exploration Internship Program (CEIP)

A school-business partnership program that provides high school students, age 14 and above, the opportunity to obtain non-paid, on-site, career exploration experiences. The focus of the program is meaningful, hands-on, career exploration rather than skill development. Students may earn to 1 unit of credit towards graduation. This credit may be applied towards an career & technical education sequence. This program must be registered with the New York State Education Department.

For further information about these programs, specific program guidelines, and registration forms, contact Tony Schilling, Coordinator of Experiential/Work-based Learning, New York State Education Department, Room 320EB, Albany, New York 12234 [518-474-4486].

Community-based Vocational Education Programs (CBVEP)

In addition to the Fair Labor Standards Act requirements, there are specific guidelines that the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor have jointly developed for school districts to use when providing non-paid, community-based vocational education/training programs for students with disabilities. Components should be designed as a continuum of learning and permit students age 14 and above to engage in:

  • Vocational exploration for up to 5 hours;
  • Vocational assessment for up to 90 hours; and
  • Vocational training for up to 120 hours.

Ideally, upon completing one, all, or any combination of the above program components, depending upon the student’s needs, he/she would be prepared to move into one the paid work-based programs, or obtain regular employment, or a supported-employment position upon graduation. Options will vary, depending on student experiences and abilities.

For further information about community-based vocational education programs for students with disabilities, contact Nancy Lauria, 518-474-7566, New York State Education Department, Office of Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities, Room 1609, One Commerce Plaza, Albany, New York 12234.


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