Outside the Classroom – Career Exploration Internship
Northridge High School has been offering a ‘Career Exploration Internship’ (commonly known as ‘Work Experience’) for years. Headed by coordinator/supervisor Mike Wickersham, it is an elective for seniors with three consecutive hours free in their daily schedule. Students find a place of employment (or volunteer work) and a supervisor there will train and evaluate them, coordinating with the school.
How It Works
“Students must attend class meetings and complete online exercises intended to enhance their work experience and training,” says Wickersham. “Local business owners and managers also come to share personal guidance and advice in developing their employability skills.” Recent topics have been compensation and benefits, labor costs, safety issues in the workplace, and work hour limitations for students.
In this, his first year of supervising the program, Wickersham is passionate about what he does. “I was excited to work with our local business owners, not to mention all of the new contacts I have made across Elkhart, LaGrange, and St. Joe Counties. We have a great group of employers working to train our students and provide good learning experiences. It’s been refreshing to get out of the classroom and travel to each business and see what the students are doing, discuss their progress, and help them set goals.”
What They Learn
The students are gaining real world, hands-on skills that cannot be learned in a classroom setting. From work ethic to leadership skills, administrative needs to communication, our seniors are being well-prepped for their futures. “All of the students have been successful and some students have greatly improved their employability skills in a way they had not been able to demonstrate in school,” says Wickersham.
Jennifer Schreiber, Assistant Manager at the Essenhaus Village Shops, says “…it has been a fantastic opportunity for both employer and student. Through this program, I’ve met some talented, hard-working, and self-motivated young individuals. I think this type of work experience will be helpful in building the students’ resumes and in giving them a well-rounded experience for future reference.”
Good for Our Community
The best part of this program is how it strengthens our community. Students establish relationships with local business contacts which will be helpful after graduation. The businesses work closely with the school and give feedback to the curriculum, and the school and students learn to reach out to their community, working together as a whole.