Concluding a Three Part Series in Defining Workable Education Models

Previously we explored the details and definition of formal licensed apprenticeship (FLATE FOCUS June 
2013) and formal student internships (FLATE Focus July 2013). This month we will look at less formal work experiences for students. These experiences differentiate themselves from apprenticeships and internships by the important fact that they do not have any tie to a particular credit-bearing course (as an internship would be). These less formal work experiences can certainly add important related work experience to a student’s resume. These opportunities can be thought of as regular part-time jobs that happen to be in the student’s field of study.

One option is college work-study programs, which provide on-campus, part-time jobs for students that
qualify for the federal program. On-campus jobs of interest to students in technical programs could include the laboratory technician helpers, or positions in the college utilities, or information technology departments. Work-study programs and campus student assistant positions have the advantage of providing a work experience at the same location that the students attend classes, but is not necessarily work in a “real manufacturing company.” Additionally, there is no connection to a college course, so there is no specific set of skills and work experience expectations, and no assessment by a faculty, or instructor as would happen in a formal internship program.

Many faculty will help their students find part-time jobs with their industry partners trying to match students’ interest directly to a company’s needs. These situations often result in informal, or formal employment-related mentoring by the industry partner and/or the faculty. This arrangement can increase the value of the part-time jobs, and provide additional guidance for the student that they would get in a formal internship.
This leads us to job shadowing. Job shadowing is a career exploration activity that offers an opportunity to spend time with a professional currently working in a student’s career field of interest. Job shadowing offers a chance to see what it’s actually like working in a specific job, observe the day-to-day activities of someone in the current workforce, and also get some of their questions answered. Categorically, a job-shadow experience is an extended informational interview. Most informational interviews are approximately 30 minutes, while a job-shadowing experience is typically a few hours to a full workday. Job shadowing is considered a good career awareness/exploration experience for middle, or high school students who are not yet old enough to legally work, but can be good experiences for college, or technical school students as well.  
For all student jobs: internships, apprenticeships, job shadowing and co-operative education experiences, it is important for both the student and the employer to prepare for the experience. Students should research the company, ask about work expectations, work hours and behaviors, etc. The company should be willing to provide personnel time and energy to orient the student to the work environment, to train them for the work expected, to oversee the student’s work, and mentor the student during the experience.

Certainly most companies can identify and implement one, or more of these student-focused opportunities to help our youth learn how interesting and exciting it can be to work in the manufacturing field, understand the breadth of the industry just by being part of it, and possibly recruit future workers. Hiring students also provides direct connections to school curriculum that manufacturers can then influence to meet their needs. It’s up to all of us professionals in the field to help grow the next generations of manufacturing professionals. If you have specific questions on how to get stated with any of these, please feel contact me at barger@fl-ate.org.

We know all you educators are super busy with the start of a new school year, but we hope you take time to read the articles in this month’s newsletter that has a little something for educators, industry colleagues as well as students. Above all we hope you will join FLATE in making Manufacturing Day in Florida a huge success. We have many activities lined up, so be sure to check them out in this edition of the Focus.