Direction to Success - The Bend Magazine

Direction to Success

Guiding students into the workforce

By: Jacqueline Gonzalez  Photo By: The Emerging Professionals Internship Program

Many jobs in the Coastal Bend region are experiencing critical shortages, and in 2018, Citizens for Educational Excellence, a local nonprofit organization, created and developed The Emerging Professionals Internship Program to prepare high school students for the numerous job opportunities available. A partnership among Education to Employment Partners (the regional P-16 council), local employers, and Del Mar College, the program aims to provide an excellent opportunity for students to continue learning during their senior year of high school, while engaging in a hands-on career experience. 

Around junior year, students begin to narrow down prospective career choices after researching their chosen fields. Unfortunately, many students eventually change their minds about their choices … but not until after they’ve gone through years of college and racked up massive student loan debt. This program was designed to bridge the gap between education and employment by offering students the chance to get a feel for their chosen career before making a heavy commitment.  
In December, Program Director Robin Ritchey-Roy visits the junior classes in five local school districts to explain the logistics of the program, giving students time to decide on a course of action. If a student chooses to commit to the internship, duties begin as early as July, when students take a technical dual credit class at Del Mar College and 30 hours of “essential skills” training, led by Ritchey-Roy, that focuses on teamwork, leadership, organization, time management, and critical thinking. Students are also taught how to build resumes and develop proper interviewing skills. In addition, students will choose a college level course designed to support their choice of career field in Business Management, Education, Legal, or STEM fields. In August, their senior year will consist of attending classes during the day and working at their paid internship from 2-5 pm, Monday-Friday.
The inaugural class just wrapped up with a successful completion of internship duties. Currently, their second class is underway and already has double the first year’s enrollment. The success of the program is also due in part to the tireless efforts of the program coordinator, Dara Frandsen, who guides both intern and employer progress to ensure a successful experience. Monthly employee evaluations are gathered from the employers, and Frandsen meets with the interns each month to discuss any possible areas of improvement and answer any questions they may have. She also continues professional development through the organization of quarterly meetings with Ritchey-Roy, the intern, and the employer to discuss overall progress and any areas of struggle. 
All interns have their own individual experiences by the end of the program. Some have a brand-new skill set that they’re ready to take into the workplace, and others have realized that the career they previously envisioned was not right for them. In the end, each outcome was a success, because it helped the interns decide what they wanted to do in the future. 

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