MIDDLEBURG – A new internship program created by the Clay County School District’s Academies of Clay is providing students with professional experience and allowing then to earn college credit for their work. The …
MIDDLEBURG – A new internship program created by the Clay County School District’s Academies of Clay is providing students with professional experience and allowing then to earn college credit for their work. The new program also allows participating companies to secure future employees in a competitive market.
One intern, 17-year-old Tatiana Rolon-Rivera, built a resume, competed and went through interviews, as well as a drug screening. She succeeded and was selected by the Clay County Utility Authority for an internship through the district’s Work Ready Program – making $11.25 per hour as one of the company’s first interns in the CCUA’s first year in the internship program.
“This is my second internship,” Rolon-Rivera said. “It goes all the way to summer and if I do well, it works out and there’s an opening, I may have the opportunity to work at the Clay County Utility Authority.”
Rolon-Rivera is an information technology student at Middleburg High School’s Visual, Information Technology and Leadership Academy, where she is instructed by teacher Charlie Thompson. He referred the teen for the internship because she interned over the summer as an IT specialist for the school district and continues to excel academically.
“She’s number two in her class right now,” Thompson said. “I was asked to refer a junior and she already did one internship. She has passed the first exam for her certification and is preparing to take the second exam after Christmas.”
Students graduate with professional certifications that make them attractive to potential employers. The water company’s public information officer, Celeste Laffy, said fewer people want to make a career in her company’s industry, so as organizations compete for employees, it helps to have already put them to work.
“These are really good kids who are already working on what they want to do in their careers. Our industry faces a limited labor pool, so instead of waiting for future employees to come to us, with current employees planning to retire and the First Coast Expressway bringing a need for us to expand services, this internship program gives us the opportunity to shape our future employees and have them certified from the beginning,” she said.
There are four academies at Middleburg High School: the Design Build Academy for architecture, construction and arts such as pottery and photography; the Mecca Academy for healthcare, early childhood education and culinary arts; the Steam Academy for horticulture, automotive and science technology; and the Vital Academy for computer systems and information technology, digital design and Web development, journalism and business management.
All four are overseen by Academies Coach Stacey Rutherford, who said the internships are organized with local businesses. This is the first year CCUA has gotten involved and started out by offering three internships with expansion to come later.
“We partner with our partners from our advisory board. These are businesses that are interested in hiring students from our academies and the Clay County Utility Authority asked for information technology, engineering and drafting and environmental. We set it up based on teacher recommendations, then I asked the students if they wanted to apply,” Rutherford said.
The water provider put 10 students through interviews, narrowing the field down to three. Rolon-Rivera was chosen for her prior internship and for having stood out when report cards are released.
“Tatiana is very impressive – we chose her for her academic excellence. She has already performed as an IT intern and she’s working on certifications our people are required to have to work in their professional capacities,” Laffy said.
In addition to the certification process that gives students a head start in their careers, Thompson said they can earn as many as 21 college credits just from the certification prep courses he teaches. They can also take college prep courses and dual enrollment classes in conjunction with St. Johns River State College.