The Significance of Internship Programs in Secondary Education

By Dominique A. Branco

Internship programs have been an effective component to career development for college students where students can explore careers within their major. Internship courses are designed for students to give students an opportunity to engage in the field and attain experience. The designing and implementation of an effective and successful internship program is paramount to the success of student career development (Brooks et al., 1995). There are many aspects to consider when designing an effective internship program such as interests, skills, personality traits, and readiness.

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Benefits of Secondary Education Internship Programs

As colleges and universities have seen the benefits of incorporating internship programs, high school may also see how this implementation would benefit students and set the foundation for higher education internship programs. An effective high school level internship program is significant for career development. There are other career development exploratory programs at the high school level such as virtual internships, job shadow days, career days, service learning, community service, capstone projects, career portfolios, etc. that are valuable experiences (Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, n.d.). Data-driven studies supporting internship benefits are minimal (Green et al., 2011), hence more theoretical and practice research is needed to maximize information on the benefits of internship programs. Career theorists such as Donald Super, John Holland, John Krumboltz, and others, claim that career exploration should be introduced in stages of life; based on readiness and maturity. By introducing an internship program to students upon entering high school, preparing then for “senior internship”, students will develop career skills throughout their four years to be put into practice upon graduation.

Super (1980) defines career as the combination and sequence of roles played by a person during a lifetime. His career development “segmented” theory evolved in discovering meaningful relationships between life-span phenomena and vocational variables (Salomone, 1996). The developmental view of career development in the context of the self allows for changes over time, making for self-concept to be more realistic and stable. Super’s ideas have impacted career education programs as they provide exposure to self-concepts and work concepts in curriculum that represents Super’s ideas of career maturity that focuses on readiness to cope with developmental tasks at a given stage.


Designing a Comprehensive High School Internship Program

The [re]design of a comprehensive four-year high school internship program incorporating John Holland’s theory and RAISEC assessment (Holland, 1994), will allow schools to apply Super’s theory and use this data to identify placement options based on students’ interests, skills, personality traits, and level of readiness in preparation for the internship in students’ senior year. Because undifferentiated individuals, those who are not able connect with defined personality types, are more likely to struggle with career decisions and may seek counseling, high school counselors should help students differentiate and broaden their knowledge of their interests, abilities, and values (Ireh, 1999). The significance of career assessments is to explore career opportunities; help student make effective career decisions; support students with educational planning; and guide students with career adjustments. Exposing students to a variety of careers is important because occupational options narrow over time (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, n.d.). Benefits of an internship can be categorized as job-related, career-related, and networking benefits. While there may be challenges with setting a comprehensive internship program, the costs are minimal for most stakeholders, compared to the benefits. Issues stem from the lack of consistent or shared expectations employers and interns hold regarding the internship. Schools can make significant use from the benefits of internships by filling an important need for experiential and vocational learning.

Impacts of a Comprehensive High School Internship Program

An emphasis on career counseling helps students learn to take actions to achieve more satisfying professional and personal lives. The success of effective career counseling for students includes the entire school experience, both programs and personnel. Schools are a catalyst and should provide students with opportunities where they can “learn, improve, and begin a self-motivated lifelong love of learning” (Krumboltz, 1988). Guidance counselors today may want to focus on leading the way in devising opportunities for students to explore different career opportunities. Unfortunately, most of their roles and responsibilities have swayed from this direction due to the lack of understanding of different career development theories and learning mode (Ireh, 2000; Heslin et al., 2020). With Super’s (1980) emphasis on career development in “life-span” cycles, Krumboltz’s Happenstance Learning Theory and Holland’s RAISEC (Self-Directed Search, SDS, assessment), schools will be able to [re]design a program in stages to identify students’ interests, strengths, personality traits, and their level of readiness. The implementation of a comprehensive internship program concluding with the senior year internship will give students a better understanding of how to utilize their skills and abilities and begin a professional process where they can “learn, improve, and begin a self-motivated lifelong love of learning” (Krumboltz, 2009, p. 139) with confidence.


Preparing Students for the Future

As students begin this comprehensive internship program, they will develop, and strengthen, skills and values needed to prepare them for the next phase. It is here where students will develop executive functioning, communication, self-awareness, self- motivation, accountability, goal-setting, and other skills to prepare them for a career after high school or segue into higher education to develop their career readiness. Companies seek interns for a full-time position after completing their assignment; this opportunity leads to the savings in the areas of recruitment and selection (Maertz et al., 2014). By contributing to an organization within their field, students will find their internship a transformational experience, as they gain insight into the career of their interest and become confident about their future.



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Dominique BrancoDominique A Branco, Ph.D., is an academic coach with Wayfinder Consulting LLC., in New Haven, Connecticut. Dominique has over 15 years of experience in education. She was a middle school history teacher and later a middle school administrator before she began working at Wayfinder Consulting where she continues to work with young adults to navigate academic and professional waters as they broaden their horizons. She assists them with organizational skill, motivation, building self-confidence, and accountability. Dominique finds ways of scaffolding differentiated supports, collaborating with professionals, and guiding student and their families towards appropriate educational and professional services to ensure equity and access; building and strengthening their academic, professional, and emotional skills is vital so that students are successful. Dominique holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy, M.A.T. in History, and a B.A. in Political Science, all from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. She can be reached at dbranco@wayfinderconsultingllc.com

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