February 2024 Newsletter

February 2024 Newsletter

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Summer Internship Hosts Needed!

As part of the Workplace Learning Connection (WLC) Internship Program, area high school students in grades 11 – 12 (ages 16 – 18) can apply for an internship and have real-world, supervised experiences with local businesses. High school internships are one of the best ways to show young people the many career opportunities available through hands-on academic career exploration. High school juniors and seniors who participate in the internship program earn dual credit through Kirkwood Community College and their local high school; they experience career exploration on-site with a business/organization while learning professional development with WLC.

One of the challenges we face in placing these students is that our demand for high-quality internships outpaces our current business support, especially in the summer months when our student requests are the highest. We anticipate needing to find placements for nearly 300 students within the next 90 days in order to meet current demands for summer 2024 internships.Crystal Group intern

Hundreds of businesses across our region are involved in hosting high school interns. Is your business one of them? Hosting high school interns is a great way for businesses to address their current and future workforce needs.

Benefits of hosting a high school intern

  • Develops relationships with potential future employees and creates a funnel for more qualified candidates down the road
  • Brings in an extra set of hands, new ideas, and a student eager to help with projects
  • Increases student awareness of career opportunities within your business or industry sector
  • Helps build Iowa’s future workforce and has a direct influence on pipeline development

Impact by the Numbers — (2022 – ’23 academic year)

  • Approximately 41% of WLC interns were offered additional opportunities by their hosts following the completion of their internship hours
  • 93% of interns said it increased their awareness of local career opportunities
  • 90% of interns said their internship influenced their selection of career field
  • 70% of interns said it positively influenced their decision to live and work in Iowa

Businesses and industries across the state are struggling with workforce issues. Hosting internships and job shadows through WLC is another vital and viable way to help address these workforce issues, providing both long- and short-term benefits.

WLC makes it easy to host an intern and there are many ways to engage. If you’d like to learn more about how your business can get involved, please complete this brief interest survey and we will reach out.



School Counselors Make a World of Difference

Feb. 5 – 9 was National School Counseling Week, and we want to take a moment to recognize our amazing school counselors. They are on the front line with students, seeing firsthand the need for and benefit of providing work-based learning opportunities to supplement students’ Individual Career and Academic Plans (ICAPs). Our school liaisons work directly with their school contacts to establish plans to meet the needs of their students and help connect what students are learning in the classroom with real-world careers.WLC staff with school counselor partners

School counselors are a critical part of our work and have contributed to the record number of job shadows we have placed over the last two school years. This year alone we will have placed over 4,000 students in job shadows! As part of this program, counselors assist with promotion, signing students up, answering questions, approving applications, and tracking students down when needed. Of job shadow students surveyed this year, over 40% said they learned about the WLC job shadow opportunity from their counselor.

There are countless examples of how counselors have prioritized career exploration and gone above and beyond to ensure their students have access to these opportunities. Below are just a few recent examples:

  • At Williamsburg Jr-Sr High School, the counselor has created a culture of career exploration. While not a requirement, a large number of students complete a job shadow or an internship; it is seen as an accepted part of their coursework and students are excited about these experiences.
  • North Linn High School wanted to work with us to get more students involved in job shadows and break down barriers that prevent students from taking advantage of our program. To address the biggest barrier, they started providing transportation to job shadows for 10th grade students who needed it.
  • Marion High School has built job shadowing into their ICAPs. They understand the importance of having students get into a worksite and explore career interests and possible paths prior to graduation.

Counselors have a tremendous impact on helping their students achieve success. We see how they fight for their students on a daily basis and we are honored to be able to recognize the work they do.

National Engineers Week — ‘Welcome to the Future’

Feb. 18 – 24 is National Engineers Week and the theme is “Welcome to the Future,” which celebrates all the things engineers do for our communities and highlights paving the way for the next generation of engineers. We are excited because this theme is right up our alley! Every day we help students explore careers in all types of engineering fields, from mechanical to biomedical, from electrical to software, and everything in between.

This school year alone we have helped over 250 students explore careers in an engineering field through a job shadow experience. We have also created opportunities for over 25 students to get an even deeper dive into an engineering career through a WLC internship.

Xavier High School senior Quinn Oleson is a perfect example of a student who has utilized Workplace Learning Connection programming to explore the various engineering pathways and companies doing great work here in our area. By the time he graduates, Quinn will have completed three job shadows at area organizations: Engineering Day at Collins Aerospace, Engineering and Machining Careers in Advanced Manufacturing at MSI Mold Builders, and Building Systems Design Day at Design Engineers. He has also completed two WLC summer internships: one in electrical engineering at West Plains Engineering and one in mechanical/design engineering at MSI Mold Builders.

“I liked learning what different engineers do day to day,” said Quinn. “It wasQuinn Oleson interns at MSI Mold Builders in Cedar Rapids interesting to learn how many decisions they made during a single project. It made me realize that critical thinking is a really important skill. I loved learning to think like an engineer. These experiences were so valuable.”

Quinn’s mother, Ann, reiterated the value of these experiences. “Workplace Learning Connection has exceeded my expectations in the opportunities for job shadows and internships for students. My son has completed numerous job shadows focusing on different areas of engineering and different types of companies. Each of these experiences gave him a better idea of the day in the life of a certain position and what that might look like.

“The deeper dive into an internship at West Plains in electrical and MSI Mold Builders in mechanical gave him real-life experience and connections to truly get a feel for what it is like to be an engineer,” Ann continued. “We are beyond impressed with the process that Workplace Learning Connection goes through in regard to career assessments, the interview process, and preparation for the experience. We feel incredibly grateful to have this type of resource available to our son as he explores his passion and future career. The WLC team is amazing and responsive and demonstrates the utmost professionalism. An A+ experience in a world where that is rare.”

We are always in need of more engineering partners to help students explore careers in their fields. Our demand for career exploration experiences in engineering far outpaces our established opportunities. If you are interested in getting involved, please reach out to Workplace Learning Connection Director Kristine Bullock at kristine.bullock@kirkwood.edu.

WLC Partner Spotlight

We have been partnering with McGrath Family Dealerships and Service Centers for over six years, helping students explore careers as an automotive mechanic/technician. They have hosted dozens of job shadows for us and are a pivotal WLC partner.

“We’ve enjoyed hosting the career exploration events that WLC has provided to us. It’s a great introductory piece for our future workforce,” said Preston Valdez, services department manager at McGrath Ford. “These students are often coming to us very early in their personal career path search, and being able to have them on-site and letting them see the interworkings of our operation is great exposure. Having the conversation with the participants about the automotive industry is exciting; these students are interested in an industry with a promising future and high employment demand. We highlight the educational options available to them and the different paths that our McGrath Ford staff has taken to get in the roles they are in today. The highest value we hope to provide is a positive experience that provokes the students to peruse entering the industry and hopefully to reconnect with them when it’s time to enter the workforce.”

Interested in hosting a student and helping to develop your future workforce? Visit our Partners and Volunteer page to learn more.