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Student Internships and Externships

Student internships and externships

Response from “Ask a Former Board Trustee”- Clear Creek ISD Chapter: Joanna Baleson, Ken Baliker, Jennifer Broddle, Bob Davee, Glenn Freedman, Ann Hammond, Charlie Pond, Page Rander Dee Scott, Win Weber © AFTCCISD2022

What are student internships and externships?

A student internship provides on-the-job training within an organization to learn about a given profession or industry. An internship’s duration is typically a full summer, a semester or more. They can be paid or unpaid, for class credit or independent of class credit. Examples of the student’s activities include project-based tasks, hands-on work with the organization’s employees, networking opportunities, attending staff meetings, research and data analysis, or other job-related activities.

A student externship is most often a ‘shadowing’ experience, designed to assist a student to better understand a given job, career, program, technology or industry. Externships are usually unpaid, but they can be paid or subsidized. Most externships last from a day to a few weeks. In a typical externship, a student follows, or shadows, respected professionals as they conduct their daily responsibilities. Scheduling is flexible to accommodate the student and the person being shadowed. Examples of a student’s activities include networking with professionals, touring facilities, interviewing the professionals, attending team meetings, reviewing relevant job-related documents, and follow-up actions.

While there are innumerable variations and adaptations of both internships and externships, there is one key common benefit: the students gain first-hand knowledge and experience to complement their classroom learning.

Why are student internships and externships important?

Internships and externships benefit students by creating a bridge between classroom and real-world learning; assisting in defining career opportunities; aiding in developing the ‘soft and social skills’ employers value; introducing them to prospective employers; sharpening their expectations of work, projects, or teams; and, ideally, adding value to the sponsoring organization.

Overall, student internships and externships are part of exploring career opportunities, whether the student is preparing for the workforce or higher education. Both internships and externships are often included on a student’s resume as examples of their job experience and to highlight the skills they acquired through the experience.

Why are student internships and externships important for a sponsoring organization?

For organizations or individuals who sponsor students, there at least five oft-cited benefits:
1. Identifying potential employees or creating a pool of potential employees.
2. Adding temporary staff assets.
3. Improving on-the-job training programs.
4. Contributing to the community, school district, and student’s development.
5. Offering positive PR and marketing opportunities.

Are there possible downsides to student internship or externship?

Sadly, yes. There are two major problems areas that may occur, if the:
1. Students are ill-prepared or otherwise do not fulfill their responsibilities or meet defined expectations.
2. Organizations do not provide proper oversight, do not encourage appropriate student engagement in the company, limit the student to grunt work, or ignore the student.

Note #1: For safety, security, and quality-assurance reasons, school districts identify, organize, vet and monitor student internships and externships. Of course, students or their parents may suggest a particular organization or individual to sponsor an internship or externship; however, if it is under a school’s auspices, the same review and monitoring processes should be in effect.

Note #2: For the school district, internships and externships assist in developing partnerships across the community and greater understanding of public education’s importance.

(Written February 2022, Revised November 2022)

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