Several business leaders who have implemented successful high school internship programs spoke at the forum at Marbles Kids Museum on May 22. The forum comes on the heels of our regional skills analysis, which showed that while many Raleigh-area business leaders want to introduce high school students to their industries, few have plans in place to do so.
Will Barfield, vice chair of education for the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, moderated the panel discussion. He was joined by Joy Frankoff, the school-to-career coordinator for the Wake County Public School System, Bret Batchelder, managing director of Cherokee Investment Partners LLC, Joy Bradley, employee engagement manager with Cisco, and Adrienne Reich, physical therapist and site coordinator of clinical education with the Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic.
“I connect business and industry with students and our teachers,” said Frankoff, speaking about her position with Wake County schools. “There are a number of reasons why high school internships are advantageous (for students). It allows a student to get a taste of what it’s like to work in that particular field.”
She also discussed the advantages for businesses.
“You get to have access to that talent pool early on,” said Frankoff. “You get to have an impact on that and there is a brand awareness.”
Batchelder agreed. “It’s a way to give back to the community,” he said. “It’s also marketing and brand awareness.”
Bradley added, “The students are seeing a whole world of work that they would not get to see otherwise.”
She said that Cisco focuses a lot of attention on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education.
“We are selective about which high schools we approach,” said Bradley. “We focus on the area high schools that have the strongest STEM programs.”
Frankoff told the audience that the size of the business does not matter when it comes to finding high school students the right internship. “The career development coordinator will match you with a student who has the right interests and skill set,” she said. “If you’re interested in that student, that student will be engaged.”
Reich said that, at the Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic, a lot of their employees want to teach students. “It’s about finding that internal champion,” she said. “Having someone who is able to talk to the students is very important to find out what their passions and skill sets are.”
Bradley said that, at Cisco, they find it’s important to show the students the inner workings of what the company does and then give those students a capstone project at the conclusion of their internships. “These kids are brilliant,” she said. “They come forward with ideas that can change the way we think about certain projects.”
Batchelder encouraged businesses who aren’t offering high school internships to consider starting a program. “It doesn’t have to be complicated,” he said. “You could do a summer-long internship or a two-week internship.”
Frankoff said that, with Wake County schools, formal internships are for juniors and seniors. She explained that there also are other ways to introduce students to industries.
“Job shadowing is for one day,” she said. “It could be a couple hours. It’s getting a feel for the work and for your organization. We also have short-term work experiences. That could be two weeks. Then, there is the internship, which is a minimum of 135 hours.”
Addressing any perceived barriers that some business leaders feel may exist to offering high school internships, Frankoff said, “It’s not rocket science. It’s not hard. It’s giving that young person an opportunity to start their career journey.”
Batchelder added, “These internships mean more to them than you’ll ever know.”
Barfield concluded by encouraging business leaders to consider creating a high school internship program. “We cannot be passive recipients to what the labor market provides,” he said. “We need to be active.”
We want to thank our panelists for taking part in such an insightful discussion. We also want to thank all of our sponsors who made the forum possible.
Don’t forget to join us on May 29 for our Legislative Reception, also at Marbles!