Expanding Work-Based Learning for High School Students

California is making unprecedented investments in work-based learning programs through initiatives like the Golden State Pathways Program, regional K-16 collaboratives and Gov. Newsom’s Master Plan for Career Education.

  • $137 million will be awarded to L.A. County schools through the Golden State Pathways Program, totaling nearly one-third of the $470 million allocated statewide.
  • $250 million in regional K-16 collaboratives across the state is helping leaders streamline coordination among K-12 schools, community colleges and four-year universities, including $18 million awarded to the L.A. Region K-16 Collaborative.
  • By fall 2024, California will finalize the Master Plan for Career Education, aiming to develop a blueprint for equitable access to fulfilling, living-wage jobs for all Californians.

For 26 years, UNITE-LA has been a passionate advocate for work-based learning because we know experiences like career speakers, job shadows and, most importantly, paid, hands-on internships open doors to high-mobility careers. As the state and our region look to expand high-quality, work-based learning for young people, UNITE-LA is thrilled to highlight Kaiser Permanente as a true champion of work-based learning, particularly through their innovative internship program for high school students.



Student Spotlight
Noah began his health care journey as a high school volunteer. In 2016, he joined the summer internship program–placed in the Process Improvement Department. Although unfamiliar with the area of work, Noah quickly witnessed the department’s deep impact on patient care, which broadened his perspective.

During the duration of the internship, Noah attended weekly educational sessions on topics such as allied health positions and career planning, which enriched his learning experience. After the program, he returned to high school, but was asked to support the program for another eight weeks the following summer. Noah’s good work led to a permanent role in the organization, where he stayed until early March 2024.

Balancing work with college preparations, Noah benefited from Kaiser Permanente’s flexibility. Today, Noah is a project manager in the Department of Physician and Clinical Education, and aims to eventually transition to a patient-facing clinical care role. A key to his success? Noah is now equipped with a deep understanding of the complex, fundamental role of the administrative side of medicine, which will inform any future role he pursues–patient-facing or not.



Kaiser Permanente is Committed to Cultivating Opportunity
Kaiser Permanente’s work-based learning programs are a testament to the company’s commitment to inclusivity and equal opportunity. Their summer internship program, for example, was developed primarily to ensure underrepresented students gain access to invaluable workplace experience in the health care field and provides students with insights and skills that are often inaccessible to those without industry connections. By focusing on students who might not have the insights, connections or opportunities for securing internships on their own, Kaiser Permanente opens doors to future careers in health care.

Kaiser Permanente’s vision is to build a workforce that reflects the diverse communities they serve. By exposing students early and frequently to health care careers, Kaiser Permanente has successfully inspired many young people to continue their journey within the organization. This long-term vision is evident as numerous, former interns have gone on to secure employment within Kaiser Permanente.

Internship Program Highlights
Each summer, more than 300 students participate in Kaiser Permanente’s paid internship program, which spans six to eight weeks and provides an immersive career experience. Students have the opportunity to support a diverse array of Kaiser Permanente departments, fostering both personal and professional growth throughout the program. Importantly, these internship opportunities are spread across Southern California, taking place in labs and clinics situated within the students’ own neighborhoods.

  • Diverse Roles and Personalized Matching: Student roles range from administrative support—such as assisting patients, answering member questions and conducting surveys—to more specialized areas like construction or financing. Students are carefully matched to departments based on their top three areas of interest, collected during the application period. Kaiser Permanente’s personalized approach ensures students are engaged and motivated, working in fields they are passionate or curious about.
  • Evaluation and Development: To ensure meaningful development, students are evaluated at the beginning and end of the summer. The evaluation criteria include time management, interactions with other interns and employees, application to work, organizational skills, attitude and attendance. This comprehensive evaluation process helps to identify growth areas and reinforces important workplace skills.

Dedicated Resources Drive Program Success

  • The Heart of the Program – Dedicated Coordinators: The program is made possible by a dedicated team of coordinators, who oversee operations at each internship site. Coordinators volunteer time because they are passionate about the program’s impact, spending time cultivating relationships with managers, driving program improvements, managing recruitment and partnering with local community-based organizations and school districts.
  • Additional Resources Supporting Student Outcomes: Scaling work-based learning programs requires a significant commitment of time and financial resources from companies. In addition to dedicated staff, Kaiser Permanente has comprehensive program handbooks and hosts educational days with various departments to holistically expand opportunity awareness.



UNITE-LA encourages other employers to emulate Kaiser Permanente’s exemplary model of work-based learning by developing internship programs that serve both our students and our local communities. Work-based learning opportunities foster a more inclusive, skilled future workforce, empowering students to succeed in high-demand career pathways. By investing in our young people through structured, immersive internships, our region can thrive economically and socially, addressing workforce shortages and promoting diversity within our professional environments.

UNITE-LA supports employers in championing opportunities for young people through a wide range of engagement initiatives. These include designing industry-focused, work-based learning models, advocating for equitable education and workforce development outcomes, and providing expert insights to help companies reimagine their strategies for attracting and retaining talent. Learn more about our offerings here.


In Partnership,


Carrie Lemmon
Senior Vice President for Systems Change Strategy, UNITE-LA



Bridget Netter
Senior Vice President of Programs and Talent Development, UNITE-LA

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