CMS internship programs faced disruptions because of COVID-19, however eliminating career development opportunities wasn’t an option.
As our entire community saw impacts of COVID-19, the educational service industry was affected in ways nobody ever could have imagined. The initial stay-at-home orders and plans to create hybrid virtual learning not only forced Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) to close its buildings, but also disrupted execution of its education programs.
In particular, CMS’ Career and Technical Education (CTE) program was significantly impacted by the global pandemic. However, CMS worked to find a solution to still give students the resources needed to prepare for post-secondary education and careers.
“COVID-19 has forever changed the way we execute work-based learning experiences. Our team had to reimagine ways to deliver content and services,” CTE Director Susan Gann-Carroll said. “In regards to Career Development, field trips, job shadows, guest speakers, and other manners of work-based learning were canceled.”
Determined to continue the CTE program, CMS looked to the City of Charlotte for support.
CMS’ CTE program received a grant from the Charlotte Open For Business’ Workforce Partner Support Grant program, which allowed students to participate in the Wintership program. After 1,394 students applied, the CTE program selected 504 students to participate in the five-week, 50-hour experience. The program offered pathways into a variety of industries, including advanced manufacturing, business and finance, healthcare, and technology.
“The Workforce Partner Support Grant allowed CTE to provide a virtual fall/winter paid internship for our students, affording an opportunity to learn and earn in high-demand pathways”, Gann-Carroll said.
The CTE program reached its goals of continuing to provide students the opportunity to prepare for their future. The program also provided the funds necessary to offer student-participants a significant stipend to aid their families, especially during the holiday season. Additionally, the grant allowed the CTE program to build a platform where students could solve a real-life challenge affecting the Charlotte community through four different pathways.
“We recognized that our students and their families could benefit from additional financial resources during this unprecedented time,” Gann-Carroll said. “We are extremely proud of the 382 student participants who completed the internship in addition to maintaining their school load.”
Adapting to a new virtual paid internship experience gave students hope and confidence in their future.
After completing the paid internship, many students shared that they learned how to put together professional presentations, write strong papers, create solutions to problems, and more. Program facilitators also saw a positive response from the students.
“One of the moments that sticks out is how they encouraged each other. Students shared tips on how they demonstrated time management skills,” Tia Douglas said, a Wintership Facilitator.
As a result of successfully executing virtual internships, CMS saw first-hand the positive impact the program had on the students as they received career development opportunities.
“The most important lesson learned was that this project was necessary,” Gann-Carroll said. “Students deserve the opportunity to apply what they are learning in the classroom in a meaningful way. Students learned that their ideas, time, and talent are valuable commodities worth being compensated.”
As CMS plans for the future, the organization intends to build upon this experience and continue looking for more avenues to provide students with enriching opportunities.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools received a Workforce Partner Support Grant from Charlotte Open For Business. Through the grant program, the City of Charlotte has awarded $3.5 million to workforce partners to provide programs for our community.