Collab Lab 20: Recap & Notes

At the end of March, we met with a group of group of students from Reagan High School who were working in or looking for internships in STEM fields. We heard three key concerns:

  • Students want a chance to exercise the skills they’ve been developing
    Students want the internship to be a chance to learn
  • Outside a few narrow fields, STEM internship opportunities for high school students are difficult to find
  • If students don’t get a chance to grow and learn, an internship is “just a job”, and those take a lot less effort to find.

In our May session we explored several issues around creating effective STEM internships for high school students. We began the evening with a review of what we heard from the Reagan students, and identified a few additional issues:

  • Internships are a new norm for K-12 schools (which have been focused on college prep)
  • Lack of buy-in around career readiness from industry, schools, and students
  • A reliance on university students for internships may be misinformed, particularly when it comes to computer programming
  • High level of on-going coordination required
  • It’s difficult for companies to identify schools with strong programs (from which to recruit)

Round 1

With this as background, we asked participants to inventory the problems to be addressed, and with the help of a couple of volunteers, sorted those responses into the following groups:

Potential Careers

  • Schools not doing enough to introduce the world of possibilities to students
  • Where do we find the resources to support students who want internships
  • High school students as seniors still only know basic STEM careers (doctor, nurse, engineer)


  • Students need summer pay
  • Students do not have transportation
  • Companies not willing to work with MPS schools
  • Companies not looking to the “experts” in the schools to assist w/career experiences
  • Let’s not forget about the MPS HS kids not in Reagan, King, Riverside
  • Internship logistics– not appealing or logistically difficult for minors/teens
  • If internships don’t work, what are other options?
  • Companies moving out of the city
  • Resources & funding both in education & industry
  • Legal barriers– minors, health care specifically
  • Transportation needs
  • Business & school partnership
  • Business support
  • How do we educate employers on the importance of internships
  • How to develop a mutually beneficial work relationship between employer and student
  • AP Java or AP anything can’t be the gatekeeper to these opportunities
  • Not having a dedicated person (100%) at each school focusing on career readiness
  • One day field trips/job shadows get kids excited but are disconnected or not continued
  • Students lose STEM engagement
  • Helping our community understand the world of work has changed


  • Exposure to different career fields
  • Exposure to local companies/orgs
  • How can we expose students to career based learning experiences so they know what they want to do/don’t waste time & $ post-secondary?
  • Career based learning experiences in building
  • Off-site experiences
  • Job shadows
  • High schoolers need a way to explore future options
  • Students liking “engineering” but not wanting to further pursue as a career
  • Kids go to college not knowing what they to study/do for a living
  • Convincing students/parents to look at the bigger picture– experience vs test scores
  • Expose kids to advanced topics earlier
  • Internships/work experiences that offer meaningful ways to engage students in school
  • How to increase significant student exposure to careers
  • We want to grow MKE as tech hub but students have little to no tech exposure
  • Real world work experience for teens


  • Equity– females & underrepresented minorities in IT
  • Kids need significant role models
  • Generate a community culture of learning and support
  • Family involvement (for support & buy-in)
  • Increase talent pipeline
  • Frequent, immediate, continuous check-in and support
  • How do we monitor long-term investment and impact on interns
  • Viewing high schoolers as capable of doing meaningful work
  • To build a common system that supports students and industries
  • Funding to allow access for every kid who wants to experience

Teaching Skills

  • Develop human skills — robot-proof education
  • Teachers not always equipped to assist w/career readiness
  • Pre-employment skills building
  • Shape curriculum to better match the real world
  • Social-emotional skill building
  • Students need employability skills
  • Application of skills vs content knowledge
  • Kids don’t have the soft skills employers seek
  • Ensuring school coursework is relevant– tied to industry competencies
  • Communicating K-12 → post-secondary →industry and adjusting as skills adaptively grow
  • Stop treating tech like a science and more like an art
  • Health care based research projects
  • Project based internship programs– what does this look like in health care?
  • Career readiness after leaving the academic environment

Round 2

We chose three areas to focus on for the remainder of the session, and split into groups to explore each topic.  Here’s what we came up with:

Teaching Skills


  • Conflicting priorities of K-12 educators, industry, and curriculum

Driving factors/barriers:

  • Lack of regional coordination
  • Lack of frequent and effective collaboration
  • Culture of STEM education
  • Educators are at capacity


  • TEALS (Microsoft program to tap industry professionals to launch computer science programs in schools.
  • SafeNet’s high school internship program (company treats program as a donation, students work on tech projects for non-profits)

Parties Involved:

  • Students
  • Educators
  • Industry
  • Parents




  • Students lack exposure to career based learning experiences

Driving factors/barriers:

  • Lack of staff buy-in
    • Curriculum incorporation
    • Knowledge of industry
  • Lack of clear District/Industry connections


  • Staff PD
    • Industry
    • Curriculum support
  • Look at successful districts/schools

Parties Involved:

  • Top down involvement (administration to teachers)
  • Industry
  • Post secondary educators/administration



  • Lack of equitable & accessible resources allocated to students in need of most support


  • [Lack of] Social & emotional support
  • [Lack of] School based career support
  • [Lack of] Student to student support
  • [Lack of] Transportation
  • No social capital
  • [Lack of] Role models (who look like them)
  • Achievement gap


  • Positive feedback loop of near-peer mentors
  • Partner with corporations and communities
  • Change perception of what is professional

Thanks again to The Commons for providing the space, Brian King for facilitating, and to our featured participants for the experience and insight they brought to the discussion:

Tamera Coleman– Internship Coordinator, Milwaukee Public Schools
Matthew Hunt– College & Career Readiness Specialist, New Berlin High School
Ariana Radowicz– University Relations, Rockwell Automation
Molly Schuld– Science Teacher, Ronald Reagan High School
Laura Schmidt, Strategic Advisor to the Superintendent – School District of New Berlin

Student Perceptions of Internship Opportunities

The following summary is based on interviews with two groups of students at Ronald Reagan IB High School in March of 2018.

When I’m trying to figure out what I’d like to do, I want…

  • A chance to try a number of different things without a long term commitment or jumping through a lot of hoops.
  • To sample what these jobs might be like

So far, what works best for that has been..

  • Job shadowing
  • Guest speakers who talk to us about their career paths and to give us exposure
  • The Girls in Tech program–”it engages me to go as they are just women in tech  and the rest is a mystery. Then we go and learn their path, recommendations, advice and get to ask questions. Each time it is different and we keep learning.”

When I know what I’d like to do I want…

  • A summer job that is related to my future career
  • To do things that use my skills

… because…

  • “If I’m spending my summer doing something I’m passionate about, I care about, and I can learn from then it’s not wasted time.”

What I think would work best is…

  • An internship with a mentor
  • A position where I have a chance to learn and grow
    • “I feel like if it’s an internship there should be an expectation of a learning curve.”

But there are a number of barriers to finding this type of position…

  • My age…
    • many positions are looking for interns that are at 18 or older
    • technology companies want college students
    • companies don’t prioritize younger high school students
  • I don’t have the skills they are looking for
  • It’s in the same field, but not my area of interest
    • I want to work with kids but can only get in to hospice, elderly care
  • I haven’t found an internship that matches what I want to do
    • Veterinary
    • Pediatrics
    • Law
    • Criminal Justice
    • Environmental
    • Automotive mechanics
    • Psychology
  • It’s hard to find internships in technology because companies want college students
  • High level of competition for internships
  • I don’t have the required skills
    • “I am in a tech pathway and can do programming and web design but it is not enough”
  • You have to have extensive course knowledge and they expect you to know how to do the work
  • I don’t know what options are out there…
    • “I either want to do something in art or engineering” (not having heard of industrial design).
  • It is harder to get an internship than a job
  • CNA requires Physical, flu shot, drug test, etc.
  • Transportation

Right now I find out about these opportunities from..

  • Friends
  • Job Fairs
  • Teachers
  • CP/PPS (Career Program/Personal & Professional Skills  aka Academic & Career Planning)

I’ve used Career Cruising but…

  • Career Cruising is good for College, not jobs
  • Most of the listings in INSPIRE are for Waukesha
  • I can’t (or don’t know how to) search INSPIRE for things in my neighborhood
  • I don’t really know how to use Career Cruising
  • They’ve told us how to get into INSPIRE, but not how to use it effectively
  • Where is the website for internships available to high school students?
  • Sometimes results seem random and don’t work but help you with opportunities
  • Career Cruising is only used during some parts of classes
  • We used it to do a survey, but never really dove into it.

This creates a number of problems…

  • People who are less qualified are going to stay underqualified because companies aren’t willing to invest in them.
  • We are currently taking what we can get, rather than finding something that is a good fit
  • Going the CNA route is a lot of work and students are not even sure what it is about/if it is right for them
  • People at other schools have not heard about this and they don’t have an internship support person
  • I jumped through a lot of hoops to get an internship before I realized it is not a good fit and now I feel like I have to take it
  • A lot of people don’t know about coaching and mentors–I had to find out on my own

What has helped is…

  • PPS is preparing us well with resume, cover letters and exposure to opportunities
  • Teachers we can go to.
  • CP, because PPS us jet to getting our foot in the door, while also earning college credit through its testing.


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