CTE interns getting a taste of the work force

Chuck Carter, supervisor for Career & Technical Education, compares internships to one thing – buying a car.

If a parent were buying a car, they wouldn’t just buy the first one on the lot, he said. They would look at the options, kick the tires and take it out on a test drive.

In CTE, students can take test drives as well. That comes with internships.

“The Hamblen County Career & Technical Education department provides test drives on careers through their programs of study related to almost every career imaginable,” Carter said.

The internships, available to students in their junior and senior years. come through the work-based learning program. The internships are an experience that students are able to take as a class in high school. The student spends the time at a job related to their field related to their high school program of study.

Carter used the example of a student who has taken CTE Nursing Education program and obtained Certified Nursing Assistant and OSHA10 certifications. This student would then be eligible for a paid summer internship with one of the school system’s medical partners or could possibly work a block during their school schedule.

“Finding what you don’t want to do in life is just as important as finding what you do want to do,” said Daniel Aldridge, program manager for CTE.

The work-based learning program started in 2014 when the school system had two interns working at a local manufacturer, Carter said.

In 2015 and 2016, that number increased up to 8 students.

That number increase to 23 in 2017 and 2018 it went to 43 students. This past summer, the internship program saw that number double to 86 students.

Some of the internships students found themselves in included jobs with Morristown Utility Systems, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, MAHLE, Arconic, Colortech and a multitude of other factories and medical practices across town.

“The growth in and success of our WBL Summer Internship Program can only be attribituted to one thing,” Carter said. “Our student interns’ level of knowledge in their chosen career field and their dedicated work ethic.”

At the end of the summer, 40% of students who went through internships were offered full-time or part-time jobs.

To make the options more accessible, there have been many partnerships forged through the Workforce Ready Partnership where high school students are offered more flexible jobs and times to help coincide with their school schedule.

One student, Heidi Campbell, who interned at Colortech, said she found other career paths to consider through her experience.

“My internship opened my eyes to career path I never considered or never knew existed,” she said. “My initial plans were to attend college for a degree in marketing, but through my work at Colortech, I found a passion for financial analysis.”

Carter said the goal is to have even more internships next year. A new application process will be rolled out in December.

Carter said they are not putting a number on it. They could have 100 internships next summer.

It could be more.

“The number 100 almost sounds conservative,” Carter said. “It is our goal to eventually provide every high school junior or senior with a WBL internship experience.”