Intellectual Property Skills Work-Based Learning Program

What is the IP Skills Work-Based Learning Program?   

The Intellectual Property Skills Work-Based Learning (IP-WBL) Program is a paid opportunity that provides high school students with opportunities for integrated STEM learning, intellectual property (IP) awareness, invention education, entrepreneurship, and federal service. 

Through a partnership with Urban Alliance, participating students in Northern Virginia and Detroit, Michigan, learn about the United States Patent and Trademark Office's (USPTO) work and mission, acquire valuable job skills, network with peers and USPTO employees, and hear directly from agency leadership about their career paths. Students build knowledge about intellectual property (IP), innovation, and entrepreneurship, while gaining experience in content creation and public speaking.  

All IP-WBL program participants are required to demonstrate IP knowledge sufficient to teach to a peer, near-peer, or community member the functions of the USPTO, the basics of IP protection, and the role of innovation as a driver of American success. IP-WBL students engage in invention challenges to come up with new ways to educate the public about intellectual property and think about creative solutions to problems they would like to solve. Past cohorts have put their ideas into practice by creating IP board games for neurodiverse students, developing infographics, designing IP-focused comic strips, curating and leading panel discussions, using theater as a way to engage students on IP concepts, identifying IP owners under the age of 25 to connect with as potential speakers and as the subject of feature articles, and more. 

Building the next-generation workforce 

The Intellectual Property Skills Work-Based Learning Program focuses on empowering the next generation of innovators, inventors, and creators to bring their own ideas to impact by building intellectual property knowledge and sharing that knowledge with others. Through this program–one of the few paid work-based learning programs offered by a federal agency–the USPTO seeks to improve employment opportunities for students from under-resourced communities surrounding USPTO headquarters and Regional Offices. Developing a diverse next-generation workforce equipped with critical IP knowledge to complement their creativity, ingenuity, and innovation is a top priority for the agency, and the IP-WBL program is designed to further that goal. 

The program was launched in 2022 with an inaugural cohort of 33 students. To date, the USPTO has employed 104 students through the program: 76 in Alexandria, Virginia, and 28 in Detroit, Michigan. 

Take a look at some highlights from past years

Meeting the Secretary of Commerce and USPTO leadership 

Students have had the opportunity to meet and participate in events and webinars with Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, USPTO Director Kathi Vidal, and USPTO Deputy Director Derrick Brent. Past events with USPTO leadership have included roundtable discussions, World Intellectual Property Day, Youth Day, and site visits to USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, and the Midwest Regional Office in Detroit, Michigan.  

Youth Day: Inspiring students through Congressional App Challenge 

Youth Day: Inspiring students through Congressional App Challenge

Other past program highlights

Meeting and interviewing inventors 

Work-based learning participant Malachi Harris interviews Hall of Fame Inventor James West about his background, innovation process, and future inventions. 

World IP Day with Director Kathi Vidal 

Two work-based learning participants engage in a discussion with Director Kathi Vidal on intellectual property basics for World IP Day.  

Explore other USPTO programs and opportunities for students.