Building soft skills through summer internships

Building soft skills through summer internships

(Ga.) High school students will have access to internship programs meant to aid in improving soft skills coveted by employers under a new summer program that partners local business with Georgia’s Richmond County School System.

The Students2Work initiative was developed by the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Business Education Advisory Council to help local employers enhance recruitment and develop the community’s future workforce, and to help guide students’ career paths and allow them to explore different career options.

“Next summer we will provide 250 students with eight-week internships,” Fran Forehand, chairwoman of the Student Workforce Committee chairwoman, told local business leaders at a chamber of commerce meeting last week. “These students will come to you prepared, excited to have employment and eager to gain important skills that will better prepare them for whatever their future holds. They will also be exposed to and held accountable for those soft skills that today’s employers depend on and demand.”

Throughout the country, local chambers of commerce have stepped up to help connect employers with young talent, and give students valuable workplace learning experiences. In California last year, the state Chamber of Commerce partnered with the Linked Learning Alliance to forge agreements with four regional business organizations to promote worked-based learning opportunities for students in local high-demand fields.

Research has shown that combining demanding classroom instruction with real-world job experiences has proven beneficial, especially for students at-risk of dropping out, by increasing attendance and keeping children engaged. Studies have also shown that internship programs can provide students a chance to further develop soft skills–including effective communication, adaptability, perseverance, curiosity and dependability–necessary to succeed in the workforce. Throughout the U.S., employers have reported gaps in the number of young people coming into the workforce with those skills.

In Georgia, chamber of commerce members said the goal of the Students2Work initiative is to improve student achievement and school attendance, reduce discipline-related issues, help students become employable, and provide networking opportunities and mentors to students, while at the same time meeting local organization needs.

Participating students must be at least 16 years old, enrolled in a district school, and pass a drug test and a background check. School guidance counselors, teachers and jobs-skills coaches will select students for the internships using a scoring rubric, and provide training in soft skills deemed most valuable by local employers.

During the eight-week summer internship, students will be expected to work a minimum of 32 hours per week on tasks that may include updating a company’s website and social media, cleaning up a database, or creating supplemental materials or internal communications, among other employer needs.

Sponsoring a student’s summer internship will cost employers $2,100.

Upon announcing the launch of the initiative, Forehand said 40 percent of the goal to get commitments from 250 businesses had already been met.

“This program is a true collaboration between our business community and the students who are eager to put their skills, knowledge and curiosity to work in actual business,” Forehand said. We have seen this work in other communities–this is a powerful tool to ensure employers in our region will benefit from having a motivated and well-trained workforce.”