Select your state

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.

Texas Statutes & Rules

Texas Education Code, Section 29.182 - School-To-Work Transition Program
This statute is relevant as it establishes the School-To-Work Transition Program in Texas, which aligns with the goals of the federal School-to-Work Opportunities Act.

The Texas Education Code outlines the creation and administration of the School-To-Work Transition Program, which is designed to provide students with the skills necessary for successful transition from school to work. The program includes career awareness and counseling, integration of academic and vocational education, work-based learning, and connecting activities. The statute mandates the development of partnerships between schools, businesses, and community stakeholders to facilitate the transition of students into the workforce.

Texas Education Code, Section 29.183 - Powers and Duties
This section details the responsibilities of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) in implementing the School-To-Work Transition Program.

Section 29.183 of the Texas Education Code specifies the powers and duties of the TEA in relation to the School-To-Work Transition Program. This includes providing technical assistance to local programs, developing a statewide plan for school-to-work transition, and coordinating with other agencies to ensure program effectiveness. The TEA is also responsible for disseminating information about the program and monitoring its outcomes.

Texas Labor Code, Section 51.002 - Employment of Children
This statute is relevant to the topic as it governs the employment of children in Texas and would apply to students participating in on-site learning experiences under the STW program.

The Texas Labor Code sets forth the conditions under which children may be employed in the state. It includes provisions for the issuance of age certificates, permissible work hours, and prohibited occupations for minors. While the STW program may involve on-site learning experiences, this statute would need to be considered to ensure that the employment of students complies with state labor laws, particularly if students are deemed employees under the FLSA.

Texas Labor Code, Section 51.003 - Exceptions
This section provides exceptions to the general employment provisions for children, which may be applicable to students in the STW program.

Section 51.003 of the Texas Labor Code outlines exceptions to the general rules regarding the employment of children. These exceptions may include certain types of educational or training programs, which could potentially apply to students participating in the STW program. The statute allows for flexibility in the application of labor laws to accommodate the unique nature of educational work-based learning experiences.

Federal Statutes & Rules

School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994
This Act is the primary federal statute that established the STW program, which is designed to facilitate the transition of students from school to the workforce.

The School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994 (Public Law 103-239) was enacted to develop a national framework for states and localities to create school-to-work systems. Key components of the Act include work-based learning, school-based learning, and connecting activities. The Act encourages partnerships between businesses, schools, and local governments to provide students with productive work experiences that are directly linked to academic and occupational learning. The goal is to prepare young people for high-skill, high-wage jobs or further education. The Act provides funding for states and localities to develop and implement these systems, with an emphasis on serving all students, including those who are at risk of dropping out of school or who are in need of greater educational opportunities.

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938, as amended
The FLSA is relevant to the STW program as it determines whether students participating in on-site learning experiences are considered employees and therefore subject to minimum wage and overtime pay requirements.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq.) establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment standards affecting employees in the private sector and in federal, state, and local governments. Under the FLSA, there are specific criteria to determine if a trainee or student is considered an employee. Generally, if the training is for the benefit of the trainees or students, if they do not displace regular employees, and if the employer derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees or students (and on occasion operations may actually be impeded), the trainees or students will not be considered employees under the FLSA. Additionally, if the trainees or students are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period and are aware that they are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training, they may not be considered employees. This is particularly relevant for STW participants, as it affects whether they are entitled to compensation during their training.