Project-Based Learning

A Summer of Discovery

By September 7, 2018 No Comments

How summer internships are impacting Seattle youth

I took an incredible journey last week. I sat in a gondola beneath a giant stratospheric weather balloon, soaring upward, higher and higher, until I reached the upper reaches of the atmosphere. Far below sprawled the vast Arizona desert. All around me, the stark contrast of where the curve of the earth meets the darkness of space.

Well okay, this was actually all part of the fearless360º Creative Exchange Lab at the Pacific Science Center. This art + technology research lab showcases 360º Virtual Reality experiences that have been created by local and visiting artists. This was one of the internship sites procured by Educurious as part of the City of Seattle’s Youth Employment Initiative.

Educurious is in its third year teaming up with the City of Seattle’s Office of Economic Development providing paid internship opportunities to young people. We work tirelessly emailing, calling, and meeting with Seattle area businesses about providing first job/learning experiences for high school and college students. The students come from a number of youth serving organization partners who help them with resumes, interview preparation, and workplace expectations.

Early job experiences can have a profound impact on shaping a young person’s future career. More specifically, internships can be an important career starting point. “Jobseekers who have completed an internship have an edge in the job market,” reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “employers reported that, on average, more than 3 out of 5 college hires had an internship experience.” [Jones, E. Internships: Previewing a profession. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2006/summer/art02.pdf]

Internships are the quintessential project-based learning experience combining classroom learning with real world situations. Internships are a great way for a student to build a career foundation and begin to develop important workplace “soft-skills” such as communication, teamwork, and time management. Young people have opportunities to discover and explore career pathways in a variety of industries. This year we’ve secured summer internships at a number of technology, finance, law, arts & entertainment, agriculture, retail, and social impact businesses and organizations in the Seattle area.

For example, interns are leading camps in a cultural, performing and fine arts program; gaining first-hand experience working in the startup and venture capital community; compiling databases and recruiting local youth artists to a talent showcase; and designing coding curriculum for afterschool programs.

These opportunities are not only providing the youth with valuable workplace skills; they are opening up their eyes to new perspectives, helping them to see the world (and their futures) differently. As intern Jaelon says, “It definitely disciplined me and made me more mature to work with a routine. And I think that these skills that I use within these programs will definitely make me more organized for the school year and therefore put me in a better path for the future.” Intern Alex concurs, “I’m learning about the workforce life. This was an opportunity to explore what I can potentially be doing in the future.”

But I also see internships as “win/win/win”. Not only do the interns benefit from their experience, so do the businesses and supervisors. Businesses have an opportunity to promote their culture and values, invest in their employees, and provide leadership development for supervisors. The intern supervisor can gain new perspectives on their work, build their knowledge and skills, and “re-energize” their career. Pete from Sasquatch Dog Grooming says, “We are very grateful for this program, it helped by giving us another resource to build up our start up.”

This is one way Educurious is connecting the classroom to careers.

It’s impossible to know what the future holds for these interns. But we hope these incredible young people will find satisfying careers that will positively impact their lives and our community. And maybe one day Educurious will send the first intern into space. But until that day comes, we’ll keep finding opportunities here on earth to help them discover themselves and their futures.