The Chariho District supports student internships with collaborating businesses, community organizations and non-profits. “Internships are offered in conjunction with and in connection to a program, class, or career.” The internship experience can also take place within the school district. These can be paid or unpaid and receive academic credit upon successful completion. The program is open to second semester juniors and to seniors. A district coordinator monitors and grades interns (Northrup, n.d.).
Cristo Rey’s intern program sends students one day a week to “real jobs [to] gain real-life experience for real wages. This allows students to pay more than half of their school tuition” (Mendieta, 2018).
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has a Linked Learning Office that facilitates internships for students during the months of July and August. Annually, hundreds of advancing high school juniors complete paid internships in various disciplines at the LAUSD District Office or in dozens of government, college and commercial venues (Student Internships, 2016).
The Los Angeles Fund for Public Education (LA Fund) offers The Intern Project (TIP) that places students who have completed their junior year in high school in paid internships. The “LA Fund manages the intern selection process, matches interns with businesses, provides coaching and support to interns, and has aligned its programming to LAUSD’s Linked Learning Initiative” (LA Promise Fund).
The LA Promise Fund is a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles with the mission statement: “Preparing Los Angeles students for success in college, career, and life” (Mission Statement). The organization collaborates with the Unified LA school district to offer students opportunities to work in a large organization. Numerous internships allow high school juniors and seniors to gain experience in fields of their choosing. Major companies, such as 20th Century Fox and SpaceX, are associated with the LA Promise Fund. However, smaller businesses also provide internships for aspiring students. The LA Promise Fund spreads across district high schools, charter schools and middle schools.
Chicago Area Schools, Illinois
High schools in the northwest suburbs of Chicago have “well-developed career exploration programs that include internships, career treks and career nights. Career treks are half-day career exploration field trips that that take place throughout the school year.” (Internship Opportunities for Motivated High School Students) The schools are supported by The Northwest Educational Council for Student Success. One advocate, Lutheran General Hospital, offers a five-week paid internship for students interested in healthcare careers. Another, Good Shepherd Hospital, invites high school juniors to work alongside patient-care professionals. Many Illinois government commissions welcome high school students. Fermilab, a federal research facility, offers highly competitive Target Science and Engineering Program internships. The Chicago Summer Business Institute places students in paid internships with banks and law, accounting and engineering firms. For students who love animals, the Anticruelty Society Veterinary Mentoring Program and Shedd Aquarium offer programs and internships for high school students. The Adler Planetarium puts its interns to work in “public programs, summer camps, robotics programming, show design, digital arts and electronics (Internship Opportunities for Motivated High School Students, n.d.).
Peoria Public Schools has a comprehensive internship program integrated with its career readiness curriculum. It offers a variety of opportunities that expose students to careers in manufacturing, healthcare, IT, hospitality and construction. One hundred and forty students interned in the 2018-2019 school year in positions lasting a semester, year or just the summer. The program works to fulfill the Illinois PaCE (Postsecondary and Career Expectations) guidelines of building essential skills for job readiness and aids students gain insights to diverse industries. The program is a collaboration among Peoria Public Schools, local businesses, the Align Peoria Effort, Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, Regional Office of Education, and the Peoria Public Schools Foundation. The focus is to cultivate skills that businesses are truly looking for. Using alternative competency-based education, the program helps students who are ready to be in the real world recover credits for graduation that were not earned in the classroom. The program seeks to grow the number and types of situations of students who apply. However, the program must strike a careful balance between the workplace and school activities.
Blue Valley Schools started an experiential learning program in 2009. Its Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) Program complements “traditional high school education by immersing students in professional culture [and] providing opportunities to solve real-world problems and explore professional interests in partnership with actual employers” (Gallagher, 2018). Employers and educators are pleased to see students relating content knowledge to actual work opportunities. A critical takeaway is that students recognize needed professional skills, such as communication, team dynamics and project management. CAPS Programs have proliferated across the country. Many major employers are taking an interest in building their brand with high school students for purposes of early recruitment. Students with CAPS experiences and portfolios, furthermore, stand out in the college admissions process (For Experiential Learning Programs to Thrive, They Must Bridge K-12 and Higher Ed 9(and the Workforce), 2018).
High schools in several Georgia counties, e.g., Fulton, Paulding and Madison, advertise WBL programs on the web for curricula ranging from agriculture to information technology (High School Work Based Learning, n.d.).
The state has a Work-Based Learning Manual to guide CTE teachers. The manual prescribes a range of Career Related Education experiences beginning with career awareness and exploration in middle school and culminating with work-based learning in grades 11-12. Students have “the opportunity to receive credit while working in an environment related to their career pathway” (Georgia Work-Based Learning Manual, n.d.). Students may be guided to a variety of work-based learning opportunities developing employable skills, such as internships, cooperative education, youth apprenticeships and clinical experiences. Teachers serving as work-based learning coordinators place and supervise students on job sites.
“Work-based learning (WBL) is a proactive approach to bridging the gap between high school and high-demand, high-skill careers in Tennessee” (Work-Based Learning, n.d.). The state offers high school juniors and seniors (16 years or older) credit for internships and apprenticeships. WBL coordinators are educators trained and certified by the state’s Department of Education to coordinate WBL experiences for students.
In 2019, the Florida legislature proposed multiple bills to support student education via work-based learning and to “increase the percentage of Floridians with degrees, certificates, education and training beyond high school” (2019 Florida Legislative Session Recap, 2019). One bill created a CTE high school diploma that requires attaining credits in both technical education and work-based learning. The same bill supported public/private partnerships that “create regional solutions to build and strengthen local talent development” (2019 Florida Legislative Session Recap, 2019).
The recommended 2020 Florida budget charts a course for the state to lead the nation in workforce education by adding funds for career and technical education and continuing appropriations for apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship grants. One bill “requires school districts to make efforts to provide students with paid work experiences through educational training and work-based learning opportunities” (2020 Florida Legislative Session Preview: College and career pathways, higher education finance, and other proposals impacting students, n.d.).
The School District of Palm Beach County (SDPBC) is the 10th largest in the United States with over 190,000 students and nearly 180 schools. The district offers “more than 330 choice and career programs at more than 125 schools in grades K-12” (Fennoy, 2020). Some of these programs prepare students for advanced training with employers while some prepare students with certifications to enter the workforce directly.
Experiential learning reaches students enrolled in specialized academy programs, such as, construction, automotive, and nursing, as part of the curriculum; but these do not involve employment. High schools often will allow seniors who have completed their graduation requirements to work part time during the school day and gain academic credit. These students find their employers on their own, but the school must approve the place of employment.
Summer internships for SDPBC students were started in 2003 in the Facilities Management Division’s Maintenance and Plant Operations (M&PO) Department. With only a handful of students employed for six weeks that summer, the program has since blossomed to where in 2019, 100 students held summer jobs across virtually every business department in the district. One hundred and fifty student internships were planned for the summer of 2020 but were cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
SDPBC interns are paid $10.75 an hour (the minimum wage) and work from five to seven weeks, depending on the department where they are employed. Participating students annually relate that their experiences are eye opening and even life changing! District support staff who are students’ mentors report that their experience is also highly satisfying.
There are three streams of internships at SDPBC. M&PO offers internships to 25-30 students from the district’s construction academies. The department pairs its interns in a rotation with tradespersons involved in repairing schools. Students are recruited who are current juniors and seniors. A senior who has graduated and demonstrates excellent work potential can be offered permanent employment at the end of the internship. The new employee can earn further credentials in an apprenticeship arrangement that M&PO makes and pays for at Palm Beach State College.viii
The next intern stream to start was in the Information Technology (IT) Division. IT tested internships for a few years before starting a robust program in 2015. IT interns work six weeks over the summer break. They, as in M&PO, are recruited in their junior and senior years. IT has 5 departments offering 12 different job classifications to 20-30 students annually. IT’s interns mostly go on to college after graduation, but some of its internship positions advance students’ technology skills in areas useful for immediate employment. A graduate intern can find work in the district.
The M&PO and IT programs attracted so much praise in the community and externally that the Superintendent and Chief Financial Officer directed other district departments to make places for interns. In 2019, 22 departments hired 43 additional interns in fields including communications, legal and human resources.
With a mature internal internship program in place, the SDPBC has purposed new thrusts toward helping more students get experiential learning. Academic and support leaders are pushing the boundaries outward to create partners for external internships and externships and to make opportunities for apprenticeships and co-op education at local colleges (Solli, 2019).
Co-op opportunities for Palm Beach County high school graduates at local colleges are highly desired. At present while there is a hot market for IT jobs in the county, there is no local co-op opportunity for technology-interested students. PBSC, Florida Atlantic (FAU), Palm Beach Atlantic, Lynn and Keiser Universities are all targets for an initiative to create co-op curricula. It may be possible for SDPBC to collaborate with Broward County Schools to generate interest to start co-op programs, especially at FAU and PBSC which have campuses close to the border.
Palm Beach Tech (recently expanded to three counties and rebranded South Florida Tech) is a private-public venture with a mission to make the county a tech hub. It is viewed as an arena to rally local tech companies’ support for the co-op initiative. Local employers can be sold, it is believed, on the strong qualifications of the district’s high school technical graduates to flourish as co-op employees.
Accessible co-op programs hold the potential to advance many SDPBC students. Creating a range of opportunities to achieve affordable education beyond a high school diploma appears a WIN-WIN for employers and students. Obtaining high quality credentials, such as certificates, associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, is the usual route expected to boost the high school diploma-only young person into a middle-class lifestyle. In Florida, it means rising above the $27,500 average annual earnings level to meet the overall average of $34,418. In addition, the higher the level of education, the more earning opportunities become available (FCAN, n.d.).
Instruction with a career theme helps students connect their academic subjects with the real world of work and specific career pathways. “Experiences in the workplace…on real projects [helps students] understand the importance of professionalism, reliability, teamwork, and clear oral communication skills” (Brand, n.d.).
The SDPBC has a robust set of career academies. The Air Conditioning, Refrigeration and Heating Technology program trains students for employment in the HVAC industry. Certifications are awarded for pharmacy technicians, emergency medical responders, pre-school teachers and more (Fennoy, 2020).
Palm Beach College has a long relationship with SDPBC. Many high school students earn college credit when taking dual enrollment classes. The researchers were also interested in learning if there was an opportunity for graduates of Palm Beach County high schools to earn college degrees in work-study or co-op programs at the county’s largest four-year post-secondary institutions. Such programs could be a boon not only to the students but to local employers.
Lynn University was visited to propose an initiative to create an undergraduate co-op program. Lynn is a private college with 2,232 undergraduate students. Although Lynn offers only two four-year technology degrees, these are currently in high-demand fields: Data Science and Computer Security. When the Chief Strategy and Technology Officer and Careers Office staff were presented a briefing on the merits of starting co-op programs in local colleges, the concept received a warm reception; Lynn staff went forward to conduct an internal review.
Shortly prior to press time for this article, Florida Atlantic University announced it will begin in Fall 2021 a four-year co-op program for three bachelor degrees: Computer Science, Computer Engineering and Electrical Engineering.
Sarasota County high school students have several options for experiential learning. A CTE On-the-Job-Training Program (OJT) allows students to leave school early to complete jobs in their career area of interest. A total of 225 OJT hours must be completed at the job site each summer. This awards two credits and students receive pay. A variation is the Executive Internship Program that allows students to leave school early to complete internships in their area of interest. The work sometimes involves job-shadowing. Students go to their job sites Monday-Thursday and on Friday have a seminar at school. This program also awards two credits but students are not paid.
District Facilities offers summer jobs, internships and externships. One school has student-led businesses operating out of Digital Design and Culinary classrooms.
There are several community businesses helping to introduce students to careers. Attorneys work with students in a Law Academy course describing a variety of jobs and on building relationships and networking. Police volunteers mentor students helping them explore the field of law enforcement.
Sarasota County students have in-class opportunities to gain practical experience in Atmospheric and Geospatial Science (AGS). In the AGS Senior Internship Program, students work with an industry representative to complete a special project for a community partner. AGS students participate outside the classroom as well with business and industry partners.
The Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce (CoC) and Leadership Collier Foundation partner to engage local employers to open work opportunities for high school students to enhance the community’s talent pipeline. Three objectives of the program are:
- Decrease “Brain Drain”
- Build advocates and future leaders for the community
- Foster good community, school and business relationships
The co-promoters stress that work-based learning helps develop the future workforce by teaching students professional work skills, attitudes and behaviors. Furthering STEM skills is particularly valued; but all students, it is believed, will benefit from work experience by seeing and participating in activities they never imagined thus broadening their career horizons. The CoC and Foundation point out to employers that taking youth into their workplaces can increase diversity, improve educational and employment prospects for disadvantaged students, and build a network useful for identifying and recruiting their future talent.
Work-based learning is touted as a strategy to develop students’ skills and employability. The Collier County promoters of WBL strive to increase diversity in specific occupations and improve employment prospects for disadvantaged students. In addition to benefiting students, employers are encouraged to participate in WBL to (Breault, 2018):
- Contribute to communities
- Create sustainable businesses, and
- Embed their brands and company reputations
Employer commitments to the program can range from short-term to long to include, for example:
- Guest speaking
- Conducting mock or informational interviews
- Conducting worksite tours
- Shadow days
The chamber and foundation have created guides for educators, students and businesses to successfully draw together for a vibrant and well-rounded program.
The Information Technology department of the Duval County (Jacksonville) Public schools paid approximately 100 high school interns last summer to repair, refurbish and configure computers in classrooms.
Miami-Dade Technical Colleges, a division of Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS), offer 60 CTE programs (Judoondan, 2019). There are programs in the summer that prepare students for real work; most are not paid. In a working and learning program, apprenticeships are available to become electricians and auto mechanics. IT students can gain certifications with Cisco Networking.
Miami-Dade County Government has formed a collective of institutions and programs to promote experiential learning for youths (Government, 2019).
- Big Brothers, Big Sisters is a school-to-work program that connects students with “volunteer county employees who can introduce workplace practices and behaviors, career paths and office technologies.”
- Career Source South Florida’s Ready to Work Employment Program serves certain young adults ages 18-24 who are not in high school and meet specified income criteria. It provides an opportunity to “enhance work readiness skills while earning an income.”
- Miami-Dade County Public Schools Mentoring and Internship Programs give “high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to explore a wide variety of County occupations while receiving professional guidance and mentorship.”
- Shining Scholars Awards recognizes and rewards high school students “throughout Miami-Dade County who have displayed extraordinary perseverance throughout their academic careers.”
- Vizcaya Internship: This world-class cultural site and museum on Biscayne Bay offers paid and unpaid internships in all terms of the academic year. Its various departments arm students “to build professional and academic skills and experience.”
The MDCPS Academic Year Internship Program pairs business and government professionals with “high school juniors and seniors to provide experience and knowledge in their intended collegiate fields of study and/or careers for an entire school year” (Academic Year Internship Program, n.d.). This program created by the MDCPS Office of Community Engagement is particularly impressive in that 1,000 students participate annually.
Miami-Dade and Broward County Schools receive assistance for making student internships from the CIO Council of South Florida. The Council’s goals are to:
- Give CIOs easier access to the local pool of high school and college talent
- Provide feedback on skills and needs to the local educational community
- Promote internships
The Council also provides scholarships annually to high school students who pursue a technical education at a Florida school (Scholarships, n.d.).
Broward County Schools is a member of the National Academy Foundation (NAF). NAF programs teach students skills for career and college readiness through curriculum, internships, and technical and employable skills training. The NAF model places students with a team of teachers who develop career and college readiness skills. Specialized academies in Broward Public Schools include: Health Science, information Technology, Finance and Hospitality and Tourism (Academies in the NAF Network Earn “Distinguished Award” and “Model Award”, n.d.).
Pinellas and Hillsborough are populous neighboring counties on Florida’s west coast, they are likely better recognized by their major cities, St. Petersburg and Tampa, respectively. Both counties’ public schools work with Advance CTE to enhance their career and technical education (CTE) programs and open doors for students to get experiential education. Examples of work-based learning that have evolved from the schools and community foundations reaching out to local businesses are job-shadowing and internships.