High School Internships Make a Difference for Northeast Indiana
Local Teen Shares Internship Experience
We’ve all heard and believe in the stats about why internships are critical to the growth of our region, both from a talent development and a talent attraction standpoint. We know that if a student, either in high school or college, has the opportunity to participate in one work experience opportunity, such as an internship, the likelihood of that student remaining in the area of the internship after graduation increases to 58 percent. Four work experience opportunities increases that likelihood to 75 percent. Our region has been working hard to create a high quality, effective regional internship program that helps employers create impactful internship opportunities that are both beneficial to the employer and to the student.
Frequently, when people think of providing internship opportunities to students, we think of college students. I believe this is because college students are older, possibly more mature, potentially have a good idea of what kind of career they are looking for and have less insurance consequences associated with working with them. While the regional internship program definitely focuses on internship opportunities for college students, the program is also working to create capacity for high quality internships for high school students as well. This is critical for several reasons:
- Some high school students are not college-bound but they should have the opportunity to explore career fields that interest them and are available to them after they graduate. This benefits not only the student, but the employer. Many of our regional employers do not require college degrees for their open positions and providing opportunities for high school interns provides them with access to potential employees and provides them exposure to their company.
- Many of our region’s high school graduates will go on to college outside of the region. An internship opportunity in high school, in the region, increases the likelihood that the student will return to the region after graduating from college. It is essential that our young people understand the employment opportunities that are available to them in Northeast Indiana so they can make informed decisions about their college major(s) and subsequent career path. We want them to remember they have a bright future in their hometown that they’ve already made a strong connection to.
- An internship in high school helps a student see a career for themselves that they may have otherwise had a hard time envisioning.
- Finally, as with any internship opportunity, it gives the student an idea of what they like and equally important, what they do not want in a career. This can help inform them about the best path to take after high school.
Many school systems around the region are working with their community employers to develop their own internship programs and place their students in internship opportunities in career fields that the students are interested in exploring. I had the opportunity to speak to Columbia City High School senior, Grace Mills, who just finished an internship during the last half of her junior year.
1. Why did you seek an internship as a high school student?
I am getting ready to start my senior year at Columbia City High School. I am in National Honor’s Society, Key Club and my group project about Eunice Kennedy Shriver went to nationals for National History Day. Going into my junior year, I didn’t know what I wanted to be yet. I knew I was interested in either law enforcement and the criminal justice field or the veterinary field. I was able to do a half-day job shadow during my sophomore year with a local veterinarian. This helped me realize I didn’t want to be a vet. They do such important work but I had a hard time with the idea of cutting or euthanizing animals. With my most recent internship, I realized this line of work intrigued me more and helped me rule out something I thought was interested in, but actually wasn’t.
2. Tell me about your most recent internship and why did you choose it?
I participated in a voluntary class called the Work-Based Learning Capstone. You have to be accepted into it with above a 2.5 GPA, a good behavioral record and the teachers have to accept you into it. My internship was a bit different in that I was placed in three different internships over the course of 12 weeks. I talked with my teacher, Mrs. Lori Heuer, and said I knew the field of study I wanted but I didn’t know where I wanted to have my internship. She helped me choose several options in my hometown of Columbia City that interested me most.
My internship was from 1-3 p.m., Monday-Friday. On Mondays and Tuesdays, I worked at the prosecutor’s office. Then, on Wednesdays and Thursdays, I worked with the Columbia City Police Department. On Fridays, I worked with the Superior Court.
I really liked the variety and the ability to do different things. I really liked being with the cops and then seeing how some of their cases advanced into the court system. I enjoyed being with the police department because I don’t think I want to be behind a desk all day. Brett Ayres, the police officer I primarily shadowed, was very relatable and she made the internship a great experience for me.
3. What skills you are learning in your internship that you did not learn in the classroom?
I learned how to think on my feet, especially with the police department and in the court system. Since I was able to be there versus in the classroom, it helped me see first-hand what they had to go through. I also learned about the importance of confidentiality when working with the police department. Prior to starting my internship, I was required to sign a lot of paperwork saying I would keep information I might have access to to myself. I knew about confidentiality but to experience the reasons behind it and seeing that play out in my internships drove home the importance of this job.
I also gained valuable time management skills. Sometimes the prosecutor’s office would give me specific tasks that had to have completed before I left for the day. I currently have two part-time jobs within the service industry and I deal mainly in delivering good, timely customer service. This doesn’t necessarily require the type of time management skills I learned in my internship.
One of the big things I learned was what kind of schooling I’ll need after high school. The people I worked with in my internship that went to college suggested that I major in two things such as criminal justice and math or business in case something falls through or I change my mind about what I want to do. This will give me options as I enter my career. I’m thinking about this and will talk to the colleges about it when I decide where I want to go.
4. What are your plans post-high school?
I intend to go to college and pursue a double major in criminal justice and another field that I haven’t determined yet. I I really enjoyed my internship experience because it helped me figure out what I want to do with my life. I also really liked getting to work in my hometown and I would definitely consider coming back to the region after college to pursue my career.