Revisiting Educator Externships
An educator in Bowling Green, Ky., was skeptical during his tour of a local manufacturing plant. He had worked in manufacturing before his teaching career and wasn’t sure about sharing that pathway as a potential career for his students. But through an educator externship with the Bowling Green Chamber Foundation, he realized a lot had changed in the 20 years since he’d been on a plant floor.
By spending just one day in a local business through the SKC Launch externship program, educators from two local school districts can make connections to the local business community. Those educators bridge the gap between students and potential future employers, creating a workforce pipeline for the area.
“We have close to 550 middle school and high school educators in our two school districts,” said Sandra Baker, the director of education and workforce for the Bowling Green Chamber. “Our goal is that every educator will participate in at least one of our educator externship events.”
Bowling Green’s program started small, focused on high school students, before expanding to middle school. The chamber team worked with district-level administrators to collaborate, work out logistics and advertise the program. They created a profile of an ideal graduate, listing optimal competencies to help guide conversations with both educators and businesses.
Before the visit, educators get a toolkit to guide them through business research. Businesses are also prepped for the day with the ideal student profile and agenda samples. Educators are then able to bring back information to their students to help them become more career-oriented.
The struggle to find workforce isn’t just in Kentucky. After studying best practices of three other state chambers, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce brought its foundation back to life in 2018 to combat the state’s talent shortage, especially in skilled trades and STEM fields.
“Everything we kept hearing was about talent pipeline,” said Whitney Harmel, the vice president of membership and development for the Maryland Chamber. “We worked with our board of directors to develop a really robust four-week immersive experience.”
今年夏天, the Maryland Chamber Foundation’s externship program placed 24 teachers at 12 sites around the state. Businesses pay the foundation to participate, and each teacher gets a stipend, along with the ability to earn continuing education credits if they implement lesson plans based on their experiences.
Harmel said they are expecting 400 applicants for the next placement in 2022. The program targets STEAM and CTE teachers, along with counselors across the state. Host businesses see potential candidates at the start of the calendar year and get the opportunity to interview a handful of teachers.
Both chambers said communication and partnerships are vital pieces to the externship puzzle. Harmel checks in with teachers and host companies regularly. “We make sure that we are always their champions,” she said. “If you can do on-site visits, it’s critical.”
Working with teachers and businesses from the beginning can make a difference, too. “When you start down this journey, building those relationships are really important,” said Baker. “Make sure to include the educators along with you.”
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