At my high school, there are a variety of opportunities for students to further their education and career preparation. Work-Based Learning (WBL) programs such as APEX, Introduction to Education, ProStart Culinary Program, and the school-to-work program are offered each year for students at my school. The last program is one of the most difficult, with limited spots and an application to get in, yet the work is worth the reward. The school-to-work program gives students real-life experience with professionals in their field through both paid and unpaid internships that teach lessons that will be remembered for all academic careers. It’s unsurprising that the school-to-work program is one of the most coveted classes, but it’s a challenge for most students, leading to a scrutinous application and review process.

Internships Through School-To-Work

The process for applying to the program is indicative of the program itself, in that students must work hard for both. Students submit an application, get three teacher recommendations, and are reviewed by a panel to determine whether or not they meet the qualifications for the program. The qualifications are based on attendance, demonstration of good citizenship, and a history of quality academic performance relative to the student’s career interests. Each year, less than 8% of Waukee seniors are accepted into the school-to-work program and placed in a variety of internships around the community. This is one of the many career and technical education classes the Waukee district offers, but is arguably the most valuable in terms of career experience.

Internships through school-to-work provide students with real-life experiences in a work environment and gives them skills for years to come. Students choose an area that interests them and are placed in a similar internship. I was accepted into the program with an interest in Business and Marketing. My first term was comprised of resume creating, mock interviews, and discussions of expectations when at internships and in the workforce. Then, I was sent to an interview for an open Marketing position at Kuder. I was successful and was hired as a Marketing intern.

My Work-Based Learning Experience

At my internship, I learned a variety of skills regarding my main career interest. I created social posts and blogs which enhanced my writing skills. I worked with the graphic designer on creating a flier on InDesign, and gained knowledge that can help me in future Marketing careers. I learned valuable life skills like professionalism and time management. Each day I came in with a positive attitude, excited to create. I learned meeting etiquette and greeted everyone I saw as I came into the office. This helped build rapport with my coworkers and made the transition from learning about internships to working in one smoother.

My internship didn’t feel stressful. There were some aspects that were difficult, such as beginning my internship. Trying to learn and be helpful to those around you while being in a new environment with coworkers you don’t yet know can be hard. It’s difficult but I felt with training from my school-to-work class I was ready to take the challenge. I tried something I hadn’t tried before and had a great experience. Everyone was helpful and open, many of my coworkers gave me advice. In the first week of my internship, a coworker sat me down and explained to me the importance of self-sufficiency in the workplace. He explained that if I truly couldn’t understand a concept, I could come to him and ask, but I should attempt to problem-solve first. This taught me independence and self-reliance, skills I will carry with me the rest of my academic career.

I quickly found I was able to balance both work, home, and school life easily. I didn’t feel time was taken away from other assignments or homework and I was able to balance both. My coworkers pushed me to become better but still provided support. I’m able to take the skills I learned here into college and beyond. Additionally, my internship opens doors to new opportunities, as I’ve had an experience many other high schoolers don’t. Having a work-based learning internship has separated me from the crowd and given me unparalleled confidence in a corporate workspace. Many employers want candidates with work-based learning internships, as it shows they have experience.

Continuing With Knowledge Gained

My internship has prepared me for life in a variety of ways. I now feel comfortable going into a professional learning environment with the skills I’ve developed. Work-Based Learning, to me, is the most foolproof way to learn. Gaining real-life experiences with experts in their field is effective in teaching about career development and academic success. Students can gain knowledge knowing that they are surrounded by reliable coworkers yet can be independent in exploring their interests. Having hands-on experience is perhaps the best way to learn a new skill and helped me learn many of mine at Kuder. Overall, I’ve had a positive experience and would recommend students apply to be in a school-to-work program or look for internships to further gain experience in the world of work.

About the Author

Lily Fleming is a current high school student who is actively exploring her career interests in marketing and communications via her district’s School-to-Work program. This opportunity has led Lily to becoming a highly-valued marketing intern at Kuder, Inc., where she is able to expand her skillset and uncover new areas of the marketing industry that have piqued her curiosity.