Education Week - January 30, 2013 - (Page 8)
JANUARY 30, 2013
FOCUS ON: CAREER READINESS
Internships Help Students Prepare for the Workplace
Job shadowing also
a tactic schools use
for career readiness
By Caralee Adams
Internships and job shadowing
offer a close-up look at life in the
workplace, yet some high school
students are so focused on academics that they pass up the opportunity, or they are uncertain
about their interests and don’t
know where to start.
But the push to improve college and career readiness and
produce a better-prepared workforce is increasing the pressure
on schools to build partnerships
with businesses. What’s more, educators realize that students are
motivated when they see the relevance of what they are learning.
“The central goal is to get students out of the classroom and
into the real world so they can feel
and see the entire work process,”
said Randy McPherson, a counselor at Trezevant Career and
Technology Center in Memphis,
Tenn., and the American School
Counselor Association’s counselor
of the year in 2011. “Otherwise,
they don’t really grasp what a day
looks like or what a job entails.”
While there is no agency tracking trends with internships, interesting models are being used
across the country, and students
often find the work exposure enlightening—even life-changing.
Internships can be set up in various ways. Some are offered in the
summer, some on evenings or weekends or during part of the school
day. They can last a few weeks or
more than a year. Many are unpaid,
but some offer a paycheck or grant
school credit for the work.
With job shadowing, students
typically spend a few hours or a
full day on a job site to learn about
Whatever the structure, a work
experience can confirm, or rule out,
a career choice. It can also help students cope with mistakes when the
stakes aren’t so high, as later in life.
Learning on the Job
Alex Carroll worked last fall as
an unpaid intern at a golf course
near his home in Searsport, Maine.
The high school senior has a passion for the sport and was considering it as a career, along with mechanical engineering. The golf pro
showed him the business side and
how to maintain the course.
“I knew a lot of money went into it,
but I didn’t realize how much. And I
didn’t realize how much was needed
to care for the fairways,” said Mr.
Carroll, who had to write a weekly
blog about his experience for school.
After the internship, he decided a
two-year golf college wasn’t for him.
Instead, he’s applying to colleges, including the University of Maine, and
may try to play golf there.
Recognizing the value of workplace exposure, Mr. Carroll’s
teacher, Kathleen Jenkins of Searsport District High School, has
expanded internships and jobshadowing programs with local
businesses, including a solar-energy company, jewelry store, newspaper, and plumbing firm.
Internships at Searsport, like at
many high schools, are unpaid. And
that can be a barrier for the teenagers who need to earn money to
make ends meet or save for college.
But Garrett Miller, a New Jerseybased workforce-productivity coach
and the author of 2012’s Hired
‘Right’ Out of College, encourages
students not to rule something
out because it doesn’t pay. “You are
being paid in experience,” he said.
“A recruiter looking at a résumé
never asks how much were you getting paid. ... If it looks interesting,
he just says, ‘Tell me about that.’”
With all the emphasis on grades
and college, schools have fostered
an “elite” attitude that doesn’t always embrace workplace experience, according to Bill Coplin, a
professor of public affairs at Syracuse University, in New York, and
the author of 10 Things Employers
Want You to Learn in College, published in 2012. In addition to academics, students need to develop a
work ethic, communication skills,
and the ability to work on a team.
The high school curriculum is “traditional and very narrow,” said Mr.
Coplin, which particularly hurts
low-achieving students who may
not be pursuing a four-year degree
but need to develop career skills.
It can be difficult to persuade
students to take the time for an
internship or job-shadowing day,
especially those in Advanced Placement classes, and increasingly,
many don’t want to work for free,
said Cara Kirby, the senior careerexperience specialist for the Fairfax
County district in Virginia. “They
are scared to miss one day of school,
even though the opportunity could
change their lives. It’s a challenge,”
Polishing Up Students
The more successful internship
programs make workplace expectations clear to students.
“You have to work with students
to [help them] understand there
is an appropriate dress, way to
act, and address people,” said Mr.
McPherson of the Trezevant center.
In Fairfax County’s hospitality
program, Pat Edwards teaches juniors and seniors the basics of the
industry in the classroom before
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they spend two days a week in an
internship at local businesses. She
explains the etiquette of the workplace, but students don’t always
catch on right away.
One of her seniors, Jermane
Whyte, was in an all-day orientation at the Ritz Carlton, Tysons
Corner this past fall when he
pulled out his cellphone during
some down time to text his father.
He also missed about a quarter of
his internship days the first semester because of conflicts with college
interviews and other activities.
The hotel supervisor called Ms.
Edwards, who then talked with
her student to reinforce the rules.
Looking back, Mr. Whyte, 17, said
he recognizes his mistakes and is
more aware now of his conduct.
He continues to intern at the Ritz
and has enjoyed rotating among
various positions, from the front
desk to security. “I had no prior
work experience,” he said. “This
has opened my eyes to work life
and team building.”
Talking It Over
What’s missing from many work
experiences in high school is time
to reflect, said Mr. Miller. To get
the most out of an internship,
students should talk about what
they enjoyed, what they didn’t,
and how that translates into their
next move, he said.
At Children’s Hospital of Colorado, Stacey Whiteside holds
weekly group debriefing sessions
for interns. “They may see something hard emotionally or physically, and this is where they need
to be talking about it. And they are
assigned a mentor on the unit,” said
Ms. Whiteside, who coordinates the
hospital’s high school internship
program aimed at underrepresented minority students.
More than 200 students in Denver apply for the 25 positions in the
hospital’s two-year, paid Medical
Career Collaborative, which includes training, monthly field trips,
and internships. At the end of the
program, students give a formal
presentation to a group of about 70
hospital staff and family members
about their experience. “Many families are blown away by seeing their
student in a professional role,” said
Ms. Whiteside. “They have not seen
that side of them, and it helps the
families buy into college.”
Former hospital intern Chisom
Agbim is a second-year medical
student at the University of Colorado. In 2006, she worked alongside a nurse in the emergency
room at Children’s Hospital and
says it solidified her career choice.
“It was exciting to be able to see
what was going on … to see how
the whole team works,” said Ms.
Agbim, who noted that the experience gave her a different impression than what she had imagined
from watching episodes of the
drama “ER” on television. “I had
a more realistic sense of what
patients are like and what physi-
cians can do.”
Now 23, Ms. Agbim says she
understands it was rare to get a
hands-on opportunity in medicine
as a high school student, while she
knew of others who just volunteered
and got stuck shelving books.
To help students, mentors, and
employers understand their responsibility in an internship, Ms.
Jenkins of Maine has all parties
sign a contract. “It makes it clear
who is accountable for what,” she
Once, Ms. Kirby of Fairfax sent
three students to a job site and the
chief executive officer asked them
to sweep. “They were furious,”
she recounts. After later talking
with the ceo, she learned he had
started at the company by sweeping and was trying to convey that
to the students. “Even if it is not
ideal, you still have to be respectful,” said Ms. Kirby.
In Lincoln, Neb., all students
at Northeast High School take a
career course that includes jobshadowing, and next fall, it will
be expanded from one quarter to
a semester of instruction. “Every
student is required to do jobshadowing. It’s the only way for
students to make a good decision
and be confident in their career
decision,” said Ruth Lohmeyer,
a counselor and the counseling
team leader, recently named 2013
School Counselor of the Year by
The district has increased its
emphasis on working with the
business community, and Ms.
Lohmeyer has found employers receptive. “People like to talk
about their occupations,” she said.
The push to make business connections is also fueled by efforts
to stem the brain drain from Nebraska and keep graduates working in the area.
As a teenager in Pennsylvania,
Meagan Phelan toured a manufacturing plant, bank, and hospital as
part of her mother’s goal to introduce her to a variety of careers. “It
created in me this curiosity,” said
Ms. Phelan. Learning how various
professionals arrived at their jobs
was liberating for her because she
realized there were many paths to
take with a degree.
After studying biology and Spanish in college, she went on to get a
master’s in science writing and now
works as a writer for a firm in Boston, as well as a columnist for the
website Prepped & Polished. “Everyone is working hard to get good
grades in high school and studying
for the sat,” she said. “But not everyone is interning, and so many
get to college undecided.”
Special coverage on the alignment
between K-12 schools and
postsecondary education is supported
in part by a grant from the
Lumina Foundation, at
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 30, 2013
Education Week - January 30, 2013
Grad Rate At Highest Since 1970
Teachers Differ Over Meeting Nonfiction Rule
States Soon to Weigh Science Standards
News in Brief
New Scrutiny as Head Start Centers Recompete for Aid
Flu-Related Absenteeism Prompts School Closures
FOCUS ON: CAREER READINESS: Internships Help Students Prepare for The Workplace
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Competitions Connect Tech. Startups With Educators
School Choice Advocate to Lead Private Schools’ Group
INDUSTRY & INNOVATION: Digital Technologies Fuel Continued K-12 Acquisitions
Blogs of the Week
‘i3’ Raises Ante in Evidence, Research Push
GOP Players in Congress Step Forward On K-12
State of the States
LAURA C. MURRAY: Mental Health Is Part of the School Safety Equation
HELEN BRUNNER: Why Equal Internet Access Is an Education Essential
VICKY SCHIPPERS: Let’s Overhaul How We Teach History
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
CHARLES J. RUSSO: Armed Teachers And Guards Won’t Make Schools Safer
Education Week - January 30, 2013