During the 2016/2017 school year, roughly 50 TIPS (Training Interns and Partnering for Success) students from Colchester High School were placed in internships with local businesses and organizations. TIPS is a .5 credit job skills course open to high school juniors and seniors.
Students that enroll in this program learn to communicate effectively in the workplace, are able to draft their own resumes and cover letters, and develop their critical thinking and understanding as it relates to the workforce.
Upon completing the course portion of TIPS, students are then placed in 20-40 hour internship of their choosing. Internship placements range from assisting in a school nurses’ office to completing ride alongs with a local police department.
While TIPS is technically a high school class, it’s also a program offered through LCRCC. The Chamber’s role when it comes to TIPS is to aid in the placement of students in meaningful internships that will hopefully help the student to learn about a career path, while also being beneficial for the organization hosting the intern. Member businesses can have the opportunity to work with a motivated, talented high school student who has already learned vital workplace skills through this course.
When I began my AmeriCorps service year in August of 2016, my main role was to help teach TIPS, but also to find businesses that were willing to host a high school intern. In the beginning, I would often reach out to organizations in the community by appealing to a company’s “human” side, by saying things like “by hosting an intern, you’re giving back to the community and making a difference in a student’s life”. While this method was successful, and I feel as though most business members in the community truly do want to see youth succeed, it was still sometimes difficult for me to find an organization willing to make an internship commitment.
As the year progressed, however, and I realized that TIPS really does prepare students for the workforce, my supervisor and I began to change the narrative when it came to approaching businesses. Instead of just focusing on the community engagement portion of hosting an intern, I would often highlight the skills these students learned during their time in class.
As Vermont’s working population begins to age, there will be a need for young, skilled workers, and I feel that TIPS is one of the first stepping-stones to preparing a student for the working world.
TIPS gives students the chance to explore a field of interest, while exposing them to skills that will be beneficial in any future career, and that’s what I began to showcase when I would approach businesses to host students.
By the end of the 2017 school-year, between 40-50 businesses participated in the TIPS program. While I feel proud of that number, the program will be expanding into Burlington High School and Winooski High School this fall, and Colchester High School will offer TIPS again this year. This means that more Chamber members will need to be recruited to work with these additional students. Though hosting an intern is a great way to help open a student’s eyes to future career opportunities, it is also beneficial for the business as well. TIPS student interns are prepared for these work experiences because they have completed a class that’s all about workforce readiness.
As the AmeriCorps member for the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, I learned a lot about myself both personally and professionally, and I feel that this position gave me the opportunity to make connections with both students and the greater Burlington business community as well. One of my biggest goals for this year was to push myself out of my comfort zone, and that’s something I also tried to help the TIPS students do as well. By taking chances and making connections, people grow and change, and no matter how old you are, I think there’s always room for self-development. So, make the commitment to work with a student intern, it’s not only good for your soul, but good for your business too.