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Employment law


The School-to-Work Opportunities Act (STW) is jointly administered by the Departments of Labor and Education and seeks to better prepare all American youth for careers in high-skill, high-wage jobs—and to strengthen the link between what is learned in school and what is required at work.

Under the STW, venture capital grants are provided to states and local communities to undertake systemic reform to increase the likelihood that youth will successfully transition from school into careers or post-secondary institutions. Grants are for a limited duration with the federal investment declining over time. These investments are intended to support the one-time costs of states and local communities restructuring learning experiences for all students.

Currently all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico are receiving STW implementation funds. The STW also provides funds for national activities to support STW system-building efforts nationwide. These funds are used for technical assistance, capacity building, outreach, research, and evaluation.
For purposes of determining whether an STW student is an employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)—and whether the employer is required to pay the student wages—the general trainee tests apply to STW learning programs.

A learning experience at an employer's work site that includes all of the following elements is consistent with a learning experience under the STW:

1. a planned program of job training and work experience for the student, appropriate to the student's abilities, which includes training related to pre-employment and employment skills to be mastered at progressively higher levels that are coordinated with learning in the school-based learning component and lead to the awarding of a skill certificate;

2. the learning experience encompasses a sequence of activities that build upon one another, that increase in complexity, and promote mastery of basic skills;

3. the learning experience has been structured to expose the student to all aspects of an industry and promotes the development of broad, transferable skills; and

4. the learning experience provides for real or simulated tasks or assignments that push students to develop higher-order critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

A student enrolled in an STW learning experience would not be considered an employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) if all of the following student criteria are met:

1. the student receives ongoing instruction at the employer's worksite and receives close on-site supervision throughout the learning experience, with the result that any productive work that the student would perform would be offset by the burden to the employer from the training and supervision provided;

2. the placement of the student at a worksite during the learning experience does not result in the displacement of any regular employee—the presence of the student at the worksite cannot result in an employee being laid off; cannot result in the employer not hiring an employee it would otherwise hire; and cannot result in an employee working fewer hours than he or she would otherwise work;

3. the student is not entitled to a job at the completion of the learning experience—but this does not mean that employers are to be discouraged from offering employment to students who might successfully complete the training; and

4. the employer, student, and parent or guardian understand that the student is not entitled to wages or other compensation for the time spent in the learning experience—although the student may be paid a stipend for expenses such as books or tools.

When all four of the above student criteria are met, an employer would not be required to pay wages to a student enrolled in an STW learning experience.

In Texas, the School-to-Work Opportunities Act (STW) is part of a federal initiative to prepare youth for high-skill, high-wage careers by linking educational content with workplace requirements. Texas, along with all other states, receives STW implementation funds to reform educational experiences and facilitate the transition from school to career or further education. These funds support costs associated with restructuring learning experiences and are not meant for ongoing expenses, diminishing over time. Additionally, the STW provides national funds for technical assistance, research, and other system-building activities. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), STW students may not be classified as employees during their learning experiences if certain criteria are met, such as receiving instruction and close supervision without displacing regular employees, not being guaranteed a job post-experience, and understanding that they are not entitled to wages, although stipends for expenses are permissible. These regulations ensure that the primary benefit of the program is to the student as a learner, not to the employer as a beneficiary of labor.

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