Waukee's School-to-Work Internship Offers Real-World Work Experience
As a senior in high school, I can attest that there is no scarier question than, “What do you want to do with your future?” Figuring out a college, a major and career field that you can see yourself in feels so daunting (and that’s because it is!). However, thanks to the School-to-Work program at Waukee High School, I feel much more at ease as I venture into my next chapter. I have had the opportunity to explore a field that I have interest in and through real, on-the-job experience at my internship, I have been given a snapshot of what my career could look like in the future.
About the School-to-Work Program
The School-to-Work program gives seniors internship opportunities across Greater Des Moines (DSM) so that they can explore career fields they are curious about. Part of the program occurs in the classroom, where we, as students, are given a crash course on how to act professionally. We practice interview skills, problem solving techniques and communication skills. We are taught about dressing professionally, résumé writing and how to connect with coworkers who have many more years of experience than us. Through the first nine weeks of the program, we are transformed from high schoolers into young professionals who can hold their own in an office setting.
Building Professional Skills
Aside from building professional skills, an important part of the program is also finding an internship that is a good fit for you. I knew going into the program that I was interested in marketing and that organization was one of my strongest skills. Because of this, my School-to-Work program coordinator put me in touch with the Des Moines Arts Festival and set up an interview time.
After my interview, I was hired as a program intern for the Des Moines Arts Festival. My responsibilities have included tracking our social media successes, coordinating everything related to the Student Art Exhibition at the Festival, facilitating communication with various community members to prepare for Festival execution and assisting my team in any other ways that I can.
Interning During the Pandemic
Thanks to the pandemic, my internship has also given me the unique experience that is working from home. The Des Moines Arts Festival team has been working from home since last March and only recently started tiptoeing back into the office. Working from home has shown me a large reality of what I believe the working world is shifting towards. From a student and an intern’s perspective, I now truly understand the importance of strong communication skills that were stressed during the classroom portion of the School-to-Work program. I have seen my capabilities and confidence grow immensely in this area over the past few months.
In tandem with our internships, there are weekly assignments and requirements that must be fulfilled for the School-to-Work program itself. I meet once per week with my program coordinator to discuss the progress of my internship and what I have been working on. I am also required to complete a weekly work report that details the tasks I worked on and the number of hours that I work. Periodically, assignments must be completed relating to professional skills and knowledge. And lastly, once per quarter, I meet with my program coordinator and my supervisor at the Festival for a performance review. These requirements bolster my internship experience to ensure I have a well-rounded understanding of the professional world.
The School-to-Work program has made me feel like I have a head start going into college. My internship experience at the Des Moines Arts Festival has solidified my interest in marketing and piqued my curiosity in event management. I have a wide range of professional skills in my tool belt and a multitude of career goals that I am so excited to start working towards. The School-to-Work program has made me a better student, human and professional, and for that I could not be more grateful.
Job opportunities and career resources are abundant in Greater Des Moines (DSM). Whether you're looking to find an internship, a job, develop professionally or grow as a student, we have the resources to help you thrive.
Lydia Tobin is a 2021 Des Moines Arts Festival program intern and student in the Waukee Community School District.