Internships Develop Both Students and the Community

Posted on: June 4th, 2018 by Nicole Kessell | No Comments

Most college students are encouraged to intern at least once within their college career. However, more and more programs have developed to offer high school students the same opportunity.


High school internship programs are an excellent way to set students up for success in future careers, to impact local businesses, and to help develop the community. Oelwein High School (OHS) in Oelwein, Iowa is one example of a school that has implemented such a beneficial program.



OHS understands the importance of developing students for college and career placement by introducing a new senior capstone course for the 2017-2018 school year. The intended outcome of the course, titled Senior Seminar, was to apply content knowledge (Iowa Core) and work-based learning concepts and skills through in-classroom and on-site work experience, according to the course’s website.


Seniors were required to find internships or apprenticeships through local collaboration with businesses, the Oelwein Chamber and Area Development (OCAD), and higher education sources such as Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC). One of the program’s main goals was to give students real-world experiences and to make sure they were doing something to impact and help a local business.


“The internship program is a valuable opportunity for the school, businesses and the community to partner together to build a great relationship,” Josh Vanderloop, Senior Seminar teacher at OHS, said.


A few months ago, CITY Clean and Simple welcomed Abby Paul, who was previously a senior at OHS but has recently graduated, as an intern in the marketing department. After finishing her internship requirements, Abby decided to continue working as an intern at CITY throughout the summer. Her primary responsibility is assisting in the marketing department by creating diverse content for social media including video and photography.


“It’s always beneficial to bring fresh, innovative minds into the workplace. And what better way to do that than to bring in someone from our very own community,” Emily Novotny, marketing manager at CITY, said.


“CITY is providing me with a lot of great experience,” Paul said. “I’ve been learning about how to present myself and how to function in a professional environment. That is something that you don’t get from the classroom. I’m also learning about marketing and getting to work with software like Adobe Photoshop and Premier Pro.”




The OHS Senior Seminar class was an excellent opportunity for students to explore different careers, gain valuable insight from business leaders, and to learn about opportunities in their very own community. Other benefits of high school internships for students include:


Gain valuable work experience

Many times, an internship is a student’s first taste of the “working world.” By working directly in their field of choice, students gain valuable work experience to add to their professional portfolio. The more a student can add to their resume, the better chance they have at landing a great job.


Learn more about the field of interest

Learning about something in the classroom isn’t quite the same as learning skills through direct experiences. It’s important to be able to put the skills learned in the classroom to the test in a real-life setting. An internship allows students to do just that.


Decide if this is the right path

You never truly know if the path you’ve chosen is the right one until you’ve experienced it. Having students work in their field of interest will help them decide whether or not that particular industry is the right choice for them. An internship can help students save valuable time and money by determining whether or not a career is the right fit sooner rather than later.


Be the first choice for future opportunities

Interns can place themselves on a list of top candidates if they can prove their skills and value to a company. Interns may also learn about job openings or be offered a job long before the hiring process begins. In fact, 45 percent of business leaders say that high school interns are very likely to receive a full time job after completing an internship at their company, according to a 2014 study conducted by Millennial Branding.


“Every intern I’ve ever had has said they’ve never had a problem getting a job,” V.J. ‘Gus’ Barker, president & CEO of Community Bank of Oelwein, said. “The ones in high school went off to college and they could step in any bank or retail job and immediately be hired. Because of that banking background, people knew that they had good training, were bondable and trustworthy.”


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Get into better colleges

When a college application contains a confident passion, valuable work-related skills, and references from a high school internship, it certainly makes a student stand out from the rest. Moreover, 90 percent of companies agree that high school internship programs can help students get in to better colleges.


Meet others with shared interests

Oftentimes a student can meet other student interns or recent graduates at the company at which they work. These people tend to share similar interests and can help students expand their network and even their social circle.


Expand their network

By working as an intern at a company, a student can develop professional relationships with the contacts they meet. Networking makes students more visible, opens doors to new opportunities, and becomes a resource for students to learn and grow.


“One of the toughest things for students these days is to find someone to look up to that is outside of their immediate circle,” Colin Wetlaufer, president of CITY Clean and Simple, said. “It’s always neat to be exposed to somebody who thinks in a different way than you do.”




Students seeking future careers must be able to stand out in order to gain a job opportunity. Internship programs can prepare those students by asking what skills businesses are looking for.


“It’s about breaking out of that traditional box and educational approach,” Nicole O’Brien, human resources manager at CITY Clean and Simple, said. “We need to ask, ‘Why are we educating kids?’ Well, it’s to prepare them for the work world. But, ‘What does the work world want?’ An internship program allows students to learn exactly that so that they can succeed.”


Students can use their internship to improve upon these top eight skills that businesses demand from their workforce.


  • Communication

Being able to communicate effectively and professionally is vital. This includes writing and speaking. A student’s resume as well as their ability to communicate during an interview will prove their true skill.


  • Interpersonal

Also known as “people skills,” those students that aren’t afraid to interact with clients, coworkers, and managers will bring tremendous value to an employer.


  • Teamwork

Being able to interact with others is just half the battle. Students must also be able to assist and support a team environment by working together with others to reach a goal.


  • Time Management

Employers expect employees to manage time and schedules effectively. An intern must be able to prove they can prioritize deadlines and be able to handle multiple projects at the same time.


  • Adaptability

It’s important to be adaptable in today’s work culture. Oftentimes employees are expected to switch roles to help out in areas in which they may not be as familiar. Students that can cope with change will be seen as a valuable asset.


  • Critical Thinking

The ability to assess a situation, use logical reasoning, and come up with a solution is a necessary skill. This means that a student can think rationally and draw conclusions in crucial settings.


  • Leadership

Students can further stand out by taking initiative when necessary, rather than waiting to receive direction for every task. Being willing to assist others is also very beneficial to an employer.


  • Receptiveness

The ability to receive constructive feedback is important. An employer must be able to discuss errors and know that an employee is willing to respond receptively and willing to address any weaknesses.




Support local high schools

High school students greatly benefit from internships, and internship programs give businesses the opportunity to support these programs for their local high schools. For example, the Oelwein Public Library often works with OHS.


“The library and the school collaborate throughout the year on a number of programs. It benefits both entities to work together in serving the community. The library enjoys working with students and learning about their perspective of the world,” Susan Macken, Oelwein Public Library director, said.


Build community-school relationships

By working together, schools and their community can build great relationships.


“I think internships really help businesses participate in a mutually beneficial arrangement with students, as well as the community,” Wetlaufer said. “In the summer, some of our best employees in production are students.”


Furthermore, by working with school internship programs, businesses can help determine whether or not students are sufficiently prepared and are gaining valuable work-related skills from their curriculum. Business can then provide helpful feedback to improve upon the existing program.


Support Local Businesses

Internship programs provide many benefits for businesses and employers.


  • Gain New Ideas

Young minds can bring in new ideas. Businesses can benefit from having interns that have fresh, outside perspectives.


“As a business owner, it’s good to stay in touch with the local school system, and also with local people,” Wetlaufer said. “For example, it’s fascinating to hear a high school student talk about how they use social media. Because the reality is, in five years, that’s going to correlate with how we use it as a business. Sometimes businesses that get there first, ‘win.’ So bringing in young, talented people can help you get there first.”


  • Find future college interns

High school students who enjoy working at their internship may consider staying as a college intern. Businesses can take advantage of the knowledge gained by the student as a high school intern instead of having to seek out new, less experienced interns.


  • Increase productivity

Having extra hands in the workplace can increase productivity. Interns can complete or assist with projects and other assignments that may have been lacking. They may also be able to take on opportunities that a business may not have had time to previously begin.


  • Gain brand advocates

Interns can help spread awareness about your company. They will often talk to their peers, families, and teachers about the work they are doing and what they are learning from their experience. This is essentially free advertising for an organization.


  • Support the Community

Internship programs not only help to support local schools and businesses, but they also directly impact the community itself.


  • Grow a future workforce for the area

As many small communities know, retaining talented graduates, especially in rural areas, is difficult. But internship programs provide communities with an ability to successfully compete in an increasingly global economic environment.


Communities that have students interning at a local level can avoid the “brain-drain,” a phrase that refers to the hollowing out of rural America due to losing its most talented young people to urban areas.


“One of the things I do with kids is, I’ll say, ‘When you leave, how many of you have the interest to go, get your education, and then come back to live in a town this size?’ Out of 150 kids, there were 5 who raised their hand saying they would be willing to come back [to Oelwein] and live,” Barker said. “So it’s a major issue that we have to educate our young people that it’s okay to live in a town this size.”


Therefore, a successful local internship program with participating businesses can help grow a community. Students can learn about job opportunities that are available right in their own community, then those same talented graduates may stay and work closer to home.


For example, two students were able to learn more about a local business by experiencing the business/human resources and marketing side of Performance Rehab in Oelwein. The students assisted with a patient survey and staff team building.


“Having students realize who the businesses in town are and what those businesses do really allows for many potential partnerships and opens those student’s minds to career paths and job opportunities right here in Oelwein,” Heather Bradley, clinic/marketing manager at Performance Rehab, said.


  • Develop the community

Students that decide to come back to their local communities to work will not only help develop the labor force, they will also help develop the overall community. These students will soon settle down, purchase homes, and have families of their own. Their children will go to the local schools and become members of the community. These students will also contribute by shopping locally and volunteering for community organizations. They may even open new businesses, which in turn, will further benefit the community by creating more jobs.




CITY has also reached out to college-bound students by offering internships to recent high school graduates. For example, Quinn O’Brien, a recent graduate of Starmont High School located in rural northeast Iowa, has joined the marketing department for a summer internship before heading off to the University of Iowa to major in English and communications.


Instead of spending his summer months waiting for college to start in the fall, Quinn took advantage of the opportunity to learn about the professional environment by applying for an intern position as a marketing editor at CITY.


“Not only am I able to try out a career I’ve seriously considered for my future, but I am gaining professional experience I can take with me to use in another future internship,” Quinn said. “Moreover, I’m adding real, professional work to my resume, and this internship will help me get more internships and opportunities in the first place.”


When asked if he would consider interning during his college years, Quinn said, “Absolutely. I would consider doing the same thing during college. Anyone can get an internship, show up to get through the day, and then leave after a month or two to go elsewhere. Not everyone can say ‘Yeah, I not only got an internship, but I made a lasting impact and significant contributions to a real business.’”




With local internship opportunities, students are given a unique opportunity to develop skills and gain valuable work experience. The OHS Senior Seminar class is a prime example of a program that is beneficial to students, businesses, and the local community. Such programs are key to not only assisting individual members of the community with professional and career development, but they also help educate communities on the importance of retaining young professionals. Communicating the availability of professional employment right in our very own communities further assists businesses with their own growth and success.


As a deeply rooted, local business, CITY is committed to expanding its reach not only as a business but also as a strong proponent of community and student development.


“An internship program is about more than having an extra set of hands in the department. We actually get to play a role in each student’s professional development. I think it’s really cool to be a part their story as they learn from their experience here at CITY,” Novotny said.



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