Crook County has made some big strides in connecting the business community with Career and Technical Education — and one of the key pieces in that conduit is the internship coordinator position through the Crook County Chamber of Commerce.
The first week of June 2019, Jason Carr was hired through the Chamber of Commerce to be the Prineville internship coordinator.
The part-time position is part of a Central Oregon regional initiative called Better Together. Its mission is to advance the collective impact of educators, businesses, governments, and youth development organizations.
There are also internship coordinators in Redmond, Sisters and Bend. The position in Prineville is funded by East Cascades Works, Facebook and the Crook County School District.
"It is attempting to create a foundation on how communities engage with local schools and businesses in order to create internship opportunities," explained Carr.
The coordinator position is essentially playing a middle-man role between the school district, Oregon State University-Cascades, Crook County Open Campus and local businesses. The program serves students between 16 and 24 years of age.
"The Prineville-Crook County Program is in its infancy," said Carr. "Really, we are working through the summer, since school has been out, signing up businesses and informing businesses of the program and the opportunities. That's kind of first and foremost, because obviously, if we are going to connect students with internships, we have to have businesses in order to have internships."
He added that in September the goal will be to coordinate with Ryan Cochran, Career and Technical Education (CTE) Workforce Development coordinator, and CTE programs.
"I am extremely excited to work with Jason, because with him working with the Chamber, I think he is going to have a real connection to our community, our business owners and our town and industry," commented Cochran.
He added that having Carr on the community side of the partnership and Cochran working with the students, they will be able to help a lot of students find internships that are meaningful and a good fit for the student and the employers.
A big part of Cochran's job involves helping the CTE programs in the schools grow and flourish, and connect with the community.
"I am super excited to have that partnership with Jason, Kim and the Chamber," concluded Cochran.
Any student 16 years and older at the Crook County High School is eligible for an internship.
"That's probably where we will start, in working with some of those students to get placed within the industry that they are interested in," said Carr.
He indicated that when a student is applying for an internship, they go through a formal interview process, including a resume and the formal process of getting a job. The employer is responsible for the student liability and adhering to Oregon Department of Labor laws.
"Really it is up to the business to decide how they want the internship set up," he clarified.
Carr added that the student needs 65 hours or more to obtain high school or college credit. The internship can be paid or unpaid.
"All of that is up to the business," said Carr. "We work with the business owner to figure out what is best for them and what works for them, based on what kind of internship that they can handle.
Kim Daniels, executive director for Crook County Chamber of Commerce, has an intern that works with her 4-5 hours per week. She requires that the students in the program go through the internship coordinator, and then go through an interview committee. Her intern went through the entire process.
"We interviewed her and asked all the tough questions," she said. "Even after I extended the offer, I sat down and critiqued the interview."
She wants the interviewees to have to work for the opportunity, and have it be a real learning experience.
"Learning communication is a huge skill for these kids," added Daniels.
Daniels is also asking her intern to help bring awareness for the program at the school level. She would like to see the internship program become a requirement for all students before leaving high school.
"It's all about the students — making sure that our students have opportunities to understand what's out there in the world, and what's even in our own back yard," said Carr.
He gave the example of the misconceptions of the wood products industry in our own community.
"The average student in Prineville still has a misperception about what the wood products industry looks like in Prineville," pointed out Carr. "It's an opportunity for us to expose kids to careers that they could pursue post-high school."
He added that there is more opportunity in Prineville for a lot of jobs in the trades, and partnering with new and existing businesses will provide students with valuable opportunities and long-term success—especially students who aren't sure what they want to do after high school.
Carr said that internships can provide students some exposure and experience to an industry they may be interested in, and it can help to inform them to what they may want,-or not want. to do in the future.
"The second thing is, it could end up leading to a really cool and fun job that they have through high school and maybe even into college in the summers when they come back in the industry they want to be in," elaborated Carr. "They are getting that real-world experience up front, rather than waiting until they are 25 before they really know what they want to do, or are exposed to things maybe they would have had an interest in back at 16 or 17 years old."
He believes that as a community, we need to do a better job of understanding what the needs of businesses are, and providing opportunities for businesses to partner at the school district level in internships and CTE programs.
"So that, from an educational standpoint, we are educating students for the real world, rather than just sort of guessing what the needs are and doing what we think is best. We need to have that connection with the local businesses.
"They know what is best. They know what they need in labor. They know the skillset and education that they need. We need their help in order to turn out their future workforce."
Jason Carr, Prineville internship coordinator
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