A new toolkit to strengthen Iowa internship programs
A new resource to help school districts plan and manage quality high school internship programs has been released by the Iowa Department of Education.
The Iowa Internship Toolkit provides key details and guidance to schools looking to implement or strengthen their internship opportunities for students. Schools can gain insightful information on how to go through the different stages of launching an internship program, from developing the program and its logistics to evaluating performance and growing future opportunities.
“This toolkit assists with communicating all of the pieces that go into planning and implementing a high school internship program,” said Kristy Volesky, education consultant at the Iowa Department of Education. “Whether a district has a program they want to improve or are developing a new program, the guide allows multiple entry points and information for all work-based learning coordinators to use.”
Developed through a collaborative project between the Iowa Department of Education, Iowa Work-Based Learning Coordinators and Iowa Intermediary Network, the Iowa Internship Toolkit was created in response to educators requesting more information on how to best oversee and strengthen their internships programs.
“With all hands on deck, we were able to bring together viewpoints and needs to address what would be helpful for coordinators,” said Ashley Prieksat, president of the Iowa Work-Based Learning Coordinators. “It is something to refer back to as they build, grow and revise their programs to reflect best practices.”
Quality work-based learning opportunities, such as internships, are vital for today’s students and for tomorrow’s workforce. Internships provide valuable preparation, mentoring and worksite experience for students. School districts that offer internships and other work-based learning programs help students learn new skills, explore career fields, build portfolios and transcripts and prepare for college and career success after graduation.
“Work-based learning opportunities are a natural extension of what is being taught in the classroom,” said Mindi Heitland, school-to-work coordinator at Waukee Community School District. “When a student finds they have an interest in a particular career field and takes all related courses at school, internships and other work-based learning opportunities provide the chance to continue to explore that interest. Students are learning key professional skills on the job – skills to help better prepare them for life after high school.”
Strong internship programs not only benefit students but Iowa’s business industry, too. Internships provide opportunities for businesses to connect, train and network with students, and having a better prepared and highly skilled workforce will help ensure that in-demand job positions will be filled in the future.
“While students are trying out industries, they are adding value back to industries and creating a direct pipeline for possible future employment,” Prieksat said. “During these experiences students are building professional and technical skills that promote confidence that they can apply in their next adventure.”
The Iowa Internship Toolkit is a comprehensive resource for work-based learning programs. For more information on how Iowa schools can expand their work-based learning opportunities, contact Kristy Volesky at firstname.lastname@example.org.