Orlando, Fla. — A good education that doesn’t lead to a satisfying career is a little bit like going to the beach every day and finding out that you really don’t like to swim. You may prefer the mountains.
Fortunately, for some Orange County high school students, there’s a unique program that will actually pay them to spend a few weeks in the water and on the sand, so to speak, to see how they like it.
It’s the Summer Internship Program run by Orange County Public School’s Career & Technical Education (CTE) department. Each year, CTE selects 4 or 5 high school juniors to earn a stipend while working at a participating organization, gaining real world experience that can pay dividends down the road. A student is assigned to the organization and provided real world work experience and mentoring for six weeks.
Aidan Artherton, 17, from East River High School, was assigned to the UCF Business Incubator in the Central Florida Research Park this summer. Since Artherton hopes to pursue a career in computer programming, the Incubator arranged for him to work with one of their client companies – BarKnock – doing just that. BarKnock is finalizing their sophisticated, data analytical mobile platform and needs help converting and upgrading some of the software.
Artherton says he plans to major in computer science when he goes to college but he wanted to get a feel for what it might be like when you walk in the door and sit down alongside professional programmers who do that for a living.
“I wanted to know what a programming job felt like since I’m going to be going into programming,” Artherton says. It didn’t take long in his summer job, he says, to find out “there are some challenges I didn’t expect, and it’s great to know about them now in this program!”
The program worked for BarKnocks, too. CEO Ruben Nunez says he was impressed with his youthful intern’s skill at such a young age, and, more importantly, his eagerness to learn.
“His capabilities, motivation and self-starting attributes have surprised us,” Nunez says. BarKnocks, in fact, invited Artherton to stay on for an extra couple of weeks this summer, with pay, before school started, and Nunez vowed that anytime the young man wants a job “he’s got one at BarKnocks!”
Students in the program earn classroom credit, work at least 150 hours, and are closely supervised by an instructor who monitors their progress and maintains close contact with the employer. Applicants for the program include OCPS juniors 16 and older who are in Career & Technical Education fields such as information technology, finance, health sciences, tourism and hospitality.
Patricia Breeding, Internship Program Director for OCPS, says by working with employers and organizations like the UCF Business Incubator to offer high school level internships, they’re cultivating future home-grown employees. Students who participate benefit in many ways, by “test driving various careers, gaining solid and meaningful work experience for their resume.” Not to mention some extra cash!
Carol Ann Dykes, site manager at the UCF Business Incubator in Research Park says the importance of supporting programs like this is in addressing the shortage of local STEM workforce. “The more we can do to inspire and encourage high school students, the better the potential workforce for our client companies,” she said. “We’re already looking forward to next summer and have another OCPS student with us!”
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For more information, media contacts –
Patricia Breeding, Internship Program Director, OCPS Career and Technical Education 407-317-3200 ext. 2690 firstname.lastname@example.org
Carol Ann Dykes, Site Manager, UCF Business Incubation Program, 407-207-7426;
Beth Payan, Larry Vershel Communications, 407-644-4142, Lvershelco@aol.com
About the UCF Business Incubation Program
The University of Central Florida Business Incubation Program is a community resource that provides early-stage companies with the tools, training and infrastructure to become financially stable, high growth/impact enterprises. Since 1999, this award-winning program has helped over 390 local startup companies reach their potential faster by providing vital business development resources.
With seven facilities throughout the region, the UCF Business Incubation Program is an economic development partnership between the University of Central Florida, the Corridor, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia Counties, and the cities of Apopka, Kissimmee, Orlando and Winter Springs. For the 2014/15 and 2015/16 fiscal years, the activities of these participating firms have helped to sustain more than 4,710 local jobs and have had a cumulative impact of over $725 million on regional GDP and over $1.3 billion on regional sales. During the same period, the program has returned $7.41 in state and local taxes for every $1.00 invested in the program. For more information, visit www.incubator.ucf.edu.