Too often that last semester in high school or community college can be one where students may be there physically but mentally they are thinking about the end of school. With most required courses completed students are finishing any elective requirements and waiting to move on. Community college students may be planning to transfer to a 4-year college or start a career and high school seniors are looking forward to college or moving on to the world of work.
Why not use these months to help students build the skills they will need for success in whatever path they decide to travel?
With a well-structured internship students have the opportunity to learn and practice new skills while still under the protective umbrella of the school. Students are NOT left on their own to find their way in a work environment but are guided and supported by the school as they take that next step into adulthood. A quality internship, whether as part of a senior project or as an elective course will allow the student to:
- Apply his knowledge and learning in the real world
- Build critical skills of team working, achievement focus and time management
- Build Networking relationships
- Establish a mentoring relationship in the real world
- Work on projects that provide value to his sponsoring organization
However, any internship must be meaningful. It needs to be structured with challenging goals and activities, have the involvement of the sponsoring organization, have a variety of ways for the intern to demonstrate his learning and have an opportunity for the intern to reflect on and consolidate his learning.
Students who do an internship in their last semester want to have the opportunity to show their school what they have achieved. Many schools provide a capstone activity that is a way for students to show how they have linked their classroom learning to their achievements in their internship. This may be in the form of a formal Project Presentation or Exhibit in the school or college or may be a more informal presentation to their work colleagues and sponsoring organization.
Quality internships should be integrated into the school’s curriculum so they are not perceived as an add-on activity. And ideally students should know that internships are how they will consolidate their learning and move on to the next phase of their life.
As Lori Desautels, Professor in the School of Education Marian University says internships “could become meaningful learning in these adolescent years for students driven by a personal sense of autonomy, purpose and mastery.”