Upper Bucks County Technical School: Work-Based Learning Program

Posted on Categories Work-based learning

At a Glance

Dr. Michael Herrera, Executive Director of Upper Bucks County Technical School, and Lisa Walck, the School Work Coordinator, have pioneered a dynamic strategy to fill the skilled workforce gap in their region. This plan, rooted in the principles of cooperative education and strong community engagement, serves as a model of best practices in career and technical education (CTE). 


Upper Bucks County Technical School’s Work-Based Learning (WBL) program is a prime example of how educational institutions can actively reduce the critical skills gap. The program has made notable strides by blending academic learning with real-world work experiences. In the 2022-2023 school year, its students worked over 39,000 hours and earned nearly $590,000, demonstrating significant economic contributions and practical experience. Strategic industry partnerships, like those with IBEW 375 and Associated Builders and Contractors of Eastern Pennsylvania, further align educational outcomes with workforce needs, offering students mentorship and hands-on skills. The program’s engagement in unique initiatives, such as NASA’s HUNCH Program, further enriches the student experience with unparalleled real-world exposure.

Additionally, the program’s inclusive approach, targeting underrepresented populations, ensures a diverse range of students can access these career-building opportunities. This combination of economic impact, industry collaboration, and inclusivity underscores the WBL program’s role in effectively bridging the gap between education and the dynamic demands of today’s workforce. Here is an overview of their systemic approach: 

Key Elements of the Strategy:

  1. Integrated Education-Employment Pathways
    The school’s methodology focuses on carving out student career paths that lead to sustainable family income, thereby enhancing the local economic landscape. This is executed via a cooperative education framework, where businesses hire and mentor students. This blend of academic learning and practical work experience enables students to explore career options in their fields and cultivate valuable professional connections.
  2. School-to-Work Program
    Emphasizing both social-emotional learning and soft skills, the program prepares students for seamless integration into the workforce. It fosters personal development and meets the immediate requirements of the local economy by supplying employers with adept professionals. Remarkably, this program operates at no cost to the district and has yielded significant financial gains for both students and the local community.
  3. Strategic Community Engagement
    Upper Bucks County Technical School employs innovative methods to promote its School-To-Work Program. Utilizing social media and engaging parents in placement meetings are vital strategies. These efforts raise awareness and foster a community spirit, celebrating students’ transitions from school to work as significant milestones.
  4. Tangible Results
    The program’s success is evident in its impressive metrics. The number of students participating, hours worked, and earnings are tangible indicators of its impact. The goal is to grow these numbers continuously, demonstrating the program’s effectiveness and role in bridging the skilled workforce gap.
  5. Program Expansion and Sustainability
    The school plans to expand its staff to meet the increasing demand for cooperative education. This expansion is vital for maintaining the quality of on-site student monitoring and support, ensuring the program’s sustainability and effectiveness.
  6. Inclusivity in Student Demographics
    The program inclusively serves a diverse student body, including those on free or reduced lunch, with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) or 504 plans. This inclusive approach is critical in providing equal opportunities for all students to succeed in their chosen careers.
  7. Comprehensive Career Development from Grades 9-12
    Students are engaged in a continuum of career awareness, exploration, experience, preparation, and development, aiding them in making well-informed decisions about their future careers and the education and training needed.
  8. The Career Launch Program (CLP):
    The Career Launch Program (CLP) at Upper Bucks County Technical School is a best practice model for integrating academic learning with real-world work experience. Targeting 11th and 12th-grade students, this program, formerly known as the Career Internship Program (CIP), bridges the gap between classroom education and workforce demands. It prepares students for the challenges of future careers by fostering early workforce training and a strong work ethic.

    The CLP is specifically designed for students who can benefit from school-to-work opportunities, including those on the waiting list at UBCTS and 12th-grade students needing credit recovery or schedule completion. To participate, students must secure at least 15 hours of employment per week, for which UBCTS offers placement assistance. The program includes weekly 90-minute sessions with teacher-coordinators, which necessitates the completion of monthly assignments and time logs. Early enrollees are also expected to undertake the NOCTI assessment. This program is a good example of how educational institutions can effectively prepare students for successful career paths and active community participation.

  9. National Recognition and Aspirations:
    Upper Bucks County Technical School’s nomination as a National Semi-Finalist in the Department of Education’s Career Z Challenge is a testament to the program’s excellence. This opportunity will further enhance the school’s ability to provide expansive work-based learning opportunities and contribute significantly to the community’s economic and social well-being.


The Upper Bucks County Technical School’s work-based learning model effectively bridges the gap between education and the workforce. Their systemic plan benefits students and employers and contributes significantly to the economic and social fabric of the Bucks County community. Their efforts exemplify best CTE and workforce development practices, serving as a model for similar initiatives nationwide.


Michael Herrera, Ed.D., Executive Director
Email: mherrera@ubtech.org

Lisa Walck, School Work Coordinator
Email: lwalck@ubtech.org

Website: https://www.ubtech.org/ubt/