Health Team

EXCHANGE: Career intern program working to attract workers

Posted 1:01 a.m. Sunday

— It's not your imagination.

If it seems like some of the workers at Princeton's hospital, police and fire departments, schools and factories look younger, it's because they are.

Princeton High School's career internship program, helmed by teacher Jennifer Wagner, is giving juniors and seniors the opportunity to get some hands on learning in professions they hope to pursue post high school.

For a semester at a time, students learn much more than what textbooks and quizzes can teach. Wagner said students start by taking a career aptitude test that points them toward potential interests. Once they identify an area of interest, it's up to them to contact a local employer from a list of program participants, set up an interview and ultimately find a placement.

"We cover interviewing, cover letters, resumes- the skills they'll need when they enter the workforce." Wagner said. "When they first start, they're a little nervous, so they get a list of potential activities to do while at their job sites. We don't want them to just be a fly on the wall. We want them to be active participants so the lists help give them direction."

Although there are a few students who take the class just for the credit, most are college-track students who have a strong idea of their career path, Wagner said.

"It gives them more direction and they find out they love what they're doing (during the program) so it solidifies it for them. Ironically, it also turns out like that for many of the students who weren't into the idea at the beginning. They find a placement that they end up loving and become really dedicated to it," Wagner said.

Junior Alex Janssen is one of this year's students who has his future pretty well mapped out. He plans on going into orthopedic surgery by way of West Point.

"I took the class because I wanted to jump-start my career," Janssen said. "My mom and three of my aunts are nurses and I've always wanted to go into something that makes people's lives better."

As a surgical technician intern at Perry Memorial Hospital, Janssen helps to set up the operating room, see surgeons scrub in and potentially watch surgery as it takes place. He hopes the internship will give him insight on how different medical conditions affect surgery and what goes on during the procedures.

Perry Memorial has been participating in the program for at least 10 years according to Marcia Hartwig who is the education coordinator for the hospital. She said when the high school first contacted them, it was an obvious choice to join the program.

"It's a great partnership to help us recruit more health care workers and we love sharing what we do here. It reminds many of us why we went into this field."

Hartwig said the biggest benefit to the students is to observe first hand what a day in the life of a health care worker is like.

"A lot of times, TV or the internet doesn't accurately portray what goes on. We want the students to see what it's really like so they can make an educated decision on the career. For us, about 95 percent of our students come to the conclusion that this is the career for them. If not, we're glad they decided that before going to college."

Senior Taylor Weatherington serves as an intern in the social work department at Perry this year to help narrow her choice of fields between social work and clinical psychology. This semester her work focuses on whether patients can be discharged from the hospital based on their mental and emotional health and whether they have a support system to fall back on once they leave the hospital.

"I've always known what I want to do," Weatherington said, "I hope to be able to help people, to be a voice for people who need it."

Another Princeton business, LCN hopes to expand its presence in the internship program. They first became aware of the potential after working with PHS engineering students a few years ago in the "Real World Design Challenge". Students worked with mentors in the engineering department and expressed interest in continuing education through LCN.

"We went to a career expo and had students who wanted to talk to people who actually used the software they were working with. They got to work on writing some of the training program for robots, floor layout and other projects here," Sarah Krisch, human resources manager said. "As interns, we really want to make sure they have a project that means something and adds value."

Krisch said the benefit of the program is mutual, because students have an opportunity to get some real hands on experience and local manufacturers are able to connect with a local workforce.

"Once I open up a skilled job, it can take 6-12 months to fill and often it's a nationwide search. These are jobs that students right here in our area can fill, making a good living in our community and supporting the local economy," Krisch said.

"We want students to know we have 300 people working here doing very interesting jobs. I view the high school as our customer and we need to find out what we can do to attract them."


Source: (LaSalle) News-Tribune,


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