Tech Talk Live Blog

Starting a Technology Internship Program

Jessica Diller

School districts are recognizing that graduates must possess new skills for the demands of the 21st century workforce. There is an increase in the districts’ needs to incorporate college and career readiness opportunities into their school experience. At the same time, technology departments, in preparation for the changing climate related to staffing and employee retention, are looking for ways to build capacity within their teams.  By building and sustaining effective internship programs, organizations can find a solution to both of these problems.

What is an internship?

The term internship is defined in many ways. A simple definition that I found to feel most authentic is below.

Internships are… structured, supervised, and short-term programs in which students perform tasks and duties within an organization to gain knowledge and experience. Internship programs should benefit both the student and the organization (Bottner & Shindell Ph.D., 2016).

Internships are not… an opportunity to hire part-time or full-time free labor to perform tasks that other employees do not have the time or desire to complete. Internships must have an educational component (Bottner & Shindell Ph.D., 2016).

How do you structure an internship program?

Just as there is no single definition of an internship, there is also not one single way to structure an internship program. Internship programs are tailored to an organizational specific need. At IU13 for example, our short-term goals are to:

  • Assist districts in achieving their college and career readiness goals.
  • Obtain summer interns that can help with projects and increase capacity.
  • Provide students with the necessary skills to obtain a Microsoft Certification.

Our long-term goals are to:

  • Enhance the lives of students and educators in Lancaster and Lebanon counties and beyond by providing foundational skills in the field of Information Technology.
  • Develop a proven model for future internship programs by establishing relationships with school districts that will participate in the Technology Management Career Pathway.
  • Build a successful pool of candidates that can fulfill our technology staffing needs in the future.

What is a Career Pathway Model?

In addition to a traditional internship program, IU13 decided to incorporate a career pathway model that includes online coursework and mentorship components.  IU13’s Technology Management Career Pathway internship program is designed to give students through mentorship, online coursework, and hands-on training, the ability to prepare and take a Microsoft certification test.  Participants initially will have the option to participate in one of three career pathways:

  • Data Science – Database Fundamentals,
  • IT Infrastructure – Windows Server Administration Fundamentals, and
  • IT Infrastructure – Networking Fundamentals.

The online portion of the program will run from January through May, leading to an eight week paid internship opportunity during the summer. Throughout the entire process, an intern supervisor will be assigned to the student. The supervisor will monitor the intern’s assignments and progress, as well as collaborate with the mentor who will coach, train, and provide deeper insights into the technology field.  At the end of the program, the students should be prepared to take a Microsoft Technology Associate exam and obtain certification.

What curriculum will IU13 use?

IU13 will be using Microsoft’s official curriculum, Imagine Academy.  Imagine Academy allows users to download the curriculum that we then used to build classes in Schoology. We did; however, have to modify the curriculum slightly to fit an online model.  Progress will be monitored throughout the program, and the curriculum will be enhanced with hands-on instruction during the summer internship.

How are students selected?

In collaboration with our local school districts, students with interest in the technology field will be selected to apply for the program.  Students will fill out an application and will go through an interview process, just as they would if they were applying for a job. Two students for each pathway will be selected. Collaboration with the school districts will continue throughout the program.

Do the students receive credit?

Schools credit qualifications vary from district to district.  For most students, participating in our Career Pathways program will not lead to any educational credits; however, they can obtain a Microsoft Certification and a paid summer internship.

An Important Key Element

The key element to any internship program is to structure it in a way that provides students the opportunity to gain knowledge and experience that they could not obtain otherwise.  Sure, one must focus on making certain that human resources and legal are involved throughout the inception of the program to make sure that the program meets all necessary compliance and legal requirements.  However, in the end, success is measured by how much a student learned and gained from the program.

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