By Lora Bresson, CIP Career Coordinator
I became the Career Coordinator at the Berkshire Center days before the 2012 Career Summit. I knew a little bit about my new position going in, but a whole lot more after the three day event concluded. I came away from the summit with a clear grasp of the importance of a rewarding internship placement for every student.
Internship experience is one of the most influential elements that determine the level of success a student can achieve at CIP. I spent the remainder of the summer contacting existing internship sites and creating new ones.
As the fall term began, I started to discover the other realities that would influence my ability to reach a 100% internship placement for our 46 students. Completely booked student schedules, transportation issues, and limited job coaching services quickly became issues of concern.
I had a great deal to learn and who doesn’t love a challenge? Our department applied a combination of newly acquired skills and some old standard remedies to obtain over 80% internship placement by the end of our fall 2012 term.
Our department’s ability to work well in environments with several irons in the fire and multiple loose ends to tie up would prove to be essential. It is a well-run system that allows our department to see internship placement numbers inch towards the 100% mark.
Some of the strategies our department used included:
First, if you are on a team then play like one. I cannot say enough about the effectiveness of our career department staff. Each of us brings a different approach and expertise to the internship and employment seeking arena. I believe I have a realistic view of my ability to be successful, it is ultimately determined by the success of the entire team. Each one of us respects that we all know something that another team member doesn’t, we focus on strengths and we learn from each other.
Second, invest the time and research into the students interests by using the tools that CIP has in place. Florida Choices assessment, student program binders, and career counseling sessions narrow down the number of directions a student might head. Find the placement that comes closest to their interest level and keep them in the loop of excitement while you find the right internship.
Only about 20% of our students are working in an internship that isn’t supporting their overall career direction. In these cases, the students enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done and the comforting fact that the internship is a character reference in the making.
Third, the career department works differently than the other CIP departments. Our need to move quickly and cater to the availability of our perspective internship sites can reap havoc on the systematic way other departments work. Be patient and work with each department, we are all working towards good things for each student.
We have learned to take whatever time is available and create the internship in that space. In some cases it takes as much time to and from the site as the student spends working, but the internship is interesting and the student sees it as time well spent.
Each of our job coaches make the internship site feel that CIP has their best interests at heart. We are focused on our student’s success and we are responsible to pave the way for both the student and the internship provider to do well.
Working with our students is incredibly rewarding, focusing on their ultimate career goals will get us to our own much faster.