One Step Ahead: Internships, Job Shadows, and Mentorships
As a teenager, I was lucky enough to be hand selected for an internship at an international corporation headquartered in Western New York. Envisioning power suits and power lunches, hobnobbing with captains of industry, I was dismayed to be ushered into a windowless room with my humble brown bag lunch, where I was trained in the fine art of filing. It was a long summer.
I’m happy to report that many of today’s on-the-job experiences are different. Job shadows, internships, and mentoring relationships are a unique opportunity for youth to test run a career, or learn first-hand from an expert or an organization what it would be like to pursue a field of interest. And in a region acutely concerned with the future workforce, these opportunities are an excellent way for employers to catch the interest of new generations and at the same time, do some good in the community by broadening the horizons of Brevard’s youth.
Local organizations like Junior Achievement (JA), the EDC of Florida’s Space Coast and CareerSource Brevard are all addressing workforce issues and even offering job shadowing programs. We’ve paired JA’s Job Shadow with a program called JA Career Success, a volunteer-delivered program designed to introduce a classroom to soft skills, personal branding, and the long term financial implications of education and career choices. As part of this workforce initiative, those same students accompany their volunteer back to their place of work. By participating in a “day in a life” within a work environment, the students get a behind-the-scenes look at an industry, ideally conducting interviews with a range of departments and levels; participating in hands-on activities that give experiential exposure to the career field/industry; attending internal meetings or presentations; visiting various offices and workplaces; and touring the work site.
For example, JA recently placed a group of Bayside High School students from their manufacturing program at Embraer as part of JA’s partnership with the EDC addressing workforce readiness. Thanks to Embraer’s comprehensive and thoughtful planning, the students spent a day doing all of the above activities, and videotaped the interviews, which the students then combined with footage of Embraer’s workplace. The resulting videos told the story of Modern Manufacturing, as part of the EDC’s talent image and attraction program, through the eyes of the students. The winning video was screened at Made in Brevard manufacturing expo on May 17, and it will ideally be joined by many more JA/EDC Job Shadow videos during the 2017-18 school year.
Internships take job shadows a step further by offering more in-depth opportunities for students to align future employment needs and interests. Universum, a global research and advisory firm, asked 65,679 undergraduates in the U.S. to identify the three top experiences they’d most like their internship employer to offer. After full-time employment (51%), what students want most from their internships is job orientation and training (42%), followed by a good employer reference (29%). Rounding out the top five are challenging assignments (20%) and flexible working conditions (19%). (https://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2014/01/08/internship-wish-list-the-12-things-students-value-most/#1d078c137b2f)
From the employer perspective, internships offer an exclusive opportunity to source top talent for full-time positions. Interns can be tested in real-time for skills, training potential, cultural fit, and work ethic.
Mentorships are another invaluable way for a student to get assistance in their education path, and later, for adults to gain insight into a career field. Brevard is lucky to have many organizations that specialize in fostering mentoring relationships. One such group is Take Stock in Children which pairs adults with worthy low-income Brevard students challenged by life’s circumstances, to assure that they have an adult assisting with life decisions and challenges. Another is The Balda Family Foundation, which not only provides scholarships to academically-deserving high school seniors, but then follows those students throughout their college experience offering educational and career guidance, and finally networking assistance for job placements. weVENTURE’s IGNITE 360 program pairs successful, forward-thinking business owners and executives with Ignite participants in order to grow participants’ businesses to new levels.
The thinking behind mentoring, job shadows, and internships is clear. Nobody in Brevard need be in this alone. Experts in career, education, and life are willing and ready to help others get a step ahead. And isn’t that what makes Brevard unique?
Anne Conroy-Baiter is president of Junior Achievement Center of the Space Coast. Since 1984, JASC has been enabling Brevard youth to own their economic futures. Through the JA cores of financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and work readiness, volunteers bring JA programs to K-12 Brevard classrooms at no cost to the schools or to tax payers.
Columnist series are sponsored by weVENTURE at the Florida Institute of Technology College of Business. weVENTURE has locations in Melbourne and Rockledge. The Center is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. For more information, visit weventure.org or call 321-674-7007.