NCAN Conference Series: Can Internships Promote Career Readiness?

This is the third in a series of four blog posts from the National College Access Network (NCAN) Conference in Phoenix, Arizona on September 15—17, 2014. These posts summarize findings from selected presentations at the NCAN Conference that provide concrete, actionable recommendations for practitioners on the following topics: increasing student awareness of “college match”; increasing STEM awareness and connecting with local businesses; structuring internships to prepare students for the workforce; and supporting first-generation college students.

Career awareness and readiness is a key component of a student’s pathway to postsecondary success, and internships were the focus of several workshops at the NCAN Conference. One Virginia-based organization, Partnership for the Future (PFF), described its approach to workforce-development and college preparation for high school students. First, PFF emphasized the importance of providing structured training and supports to both the students and the business partners. Students receive a year of pre-placement training on workforce skill development such as communication, time management, attitude, conflict resolution, and workplace etiquette. For business sponsors, training includes understanding adolescent development, setting realistic goals and expectations, offering ideas for helping students with common workplace issues such as “down time,” and arranging logistics. Students and companies both fill out profile questionnaires, and PFF matches students to internships. During the internship, PFF provides ongoing, on-call support to students and business partners through a hotline, site visits, and regular reminders about timesheets, evaluations, and other events.

A second key component to the PFF program is that the internships are paid and businesses partner with PFF as an investment in the local workforce. All students are paid minimum wage in their first year and receive wage increases for each year they continue in the program. Businesses pay students’ salaries and contribute to a scholarship fund, matching students’ savings of up to $2,000 to encourage them to save for college. While not a program requirement, many of the PFF students intern at partner businesses in college and some accept full-time jobs with partner businesses after completing their degrees.  

Clarisse Haxton is a Senior Researcher with the College and Career Readiness and Success Center at AIR.

Photo credit: Flickr

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