The Value of a Team

For the past several years, we’ve participated as sponsors and exhibitors at the ACTE CareerTech VISION conferences to promote our offerings, including our pathways support services,
Seamless WBL, and our new CareerSmart Schools resource. Pretty much every year we have increased our investment in this event because it’s been such a great way to connect with current and future users.

As a co-founder of NC3T and lead architect of Seamless, I’ve been on-site every year, leading workshops and manning the booth. There’s just no substitute for me being able to talk with people directly about what we do.

This year was different. Starting the Saturday before the conference, I came down with a bug. Bad. Fatigue, body aches, congestion and much more. By Tuesday, I had already canceled my trip and was sitting in the doctor’s office waiting to take a COVID test. (It was negative thankfully, but something sure got me!)

In past years, assuming that negative COVID test I would have gone no matter how bad I felt, working the floor during the day and sleeping in a Nyquil-induced haze every night. But this year I felt comfortable canceling and staying home to recover.

What’s the difference? This is the first year that we’ve had a full cadre of qualified, personable team members who I knew were capable of representing us without me there. And by all accounts they did an amazing job.

There’s a reason for this story (aside from saying thank you to our awesome people).

One of the truisms of work-based learning is that, because it’s rarely mandated in schools, anything that happens is typically the work of a champion: Someone who said, “This is important, and I’m going to do it,” then singlehandedly takes the initiative to build employer relationships and set up and manage WBL activities.

Champions are great; I have tremendous respect for them. But by nature, it’s something of a solo act. And that makes these kinds of initiatives very fragile. If that person retires, moves, or has a life event, the entire thing will likely fall apart.

So, if you’re one of those champions (and bless you if you are), start thinking right away about building a team. Start promoting work-based learning internally and get others to take action as well, sharing the workload and covering for each other as needed. And encourage your employer partners to do the same, because they’re likely champions themselves, and the same risks are found on their side of the equation.


Brett Pawlowski is Executive Vice President of the National Center for College and Career (NC3T) ( NC3T provides planning, coaching, technical assistance, and tools. These strategies help community-based leadership teams plan and implement their college-career pathway systems and strengthen employer connections with education.