COOS BAY — The Coos Bay School District and local businesses are working together.
The School to Work Program has been around since the early 1980s, but participation plummeted nearly 10 years ago. In an effort to revitalize the internship experience, Superintendent Bryan Trendell, with the help of Harding Principal Dale Inskeep and Marshfield Assistant Principal Elias Ashton, the program is making a comeback.
“This program has a strong history with getting our kids their core academics in the morning and then sending them into the workforce in the afternoon, where, by the time graduation comes around they have job experience and sometimes job offers,” Trendell said. “We are doing the same thing on a smaller extent now and want to make it grow.”
The goal is twofold. The first is to provide students in the district with useful skills for when they graduate, making it so they are ready to step into the workforce without requiring employers to spend weeks or months training them. The second is also to help them earn electives to help them graduate.
Trendell, Inskeep, and Ashton are looking at how to boost the program to not only help students, but also local businesses. So far, the program has sent students to internships at Bay Area Hospital, office supply stores, car dealerships, Taco Bell, and veterinary clinics.
The School to Work Program has also sent students to job shadow teachers at Blossom Gulch Elementary, Millicoma Middle School, and Madison Elementary. Each student was assigned a teacher, where they helped by doing small work in the classrooms like making copies.
“The teacher assigned to them was their mentor,” Ashton said.
Last year, 35 students were involved in the program. Ashton is working to hammer out details which would allow students involved in the program next year to earn half a semester credit every 60 hours. That is typical for one period of school if a student were taking basic PE classes.
“Some of these students have their internships for one period and others for three periods,” Ashton said. “It just depends on the number of hours they work.”
One of the challenges that the program has faced over the past 10 years is networking. Ashton explained that 10 years ago it was run by someone with deep ties to the community. Once they left, the program began to disintegrate as those connections disappeared. He is working this summer to make those connections again, first by visiting Bay Area Chamber of Commerce in August to see if any other local businesses would be interested in being part of the program.
“We're all about outreach right now,” he said. “At this point, it really comes down to making connections with the local businesses.”
Once a student expresses interest in doing an internship with a company, Ashton will first visit the employer to talk about their expectations of the student as well as the school's expectations. The school will check in once a month and at the end of the semester the employer will be asked to fill out a form on which the student will be graded.
“We require the kids to have a resume at the end, which is a graduation requirement anyway,” he said. “Right now a lot of upcoming seniors are interested, as most seniors are, because they have time to do internships and need the work experience. Seniors are aware that they need jobs, and this is a great way to get them. Once an employer sees the kind of worker they are, has already trained them, often they will want to hire them. It is a great opportunity for both businesses and students.”
If a business wants to be part of the program, email Ashton at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 541-267-1417.