Sioux City Career Academy’s internship program offers hands-on learning
Watching an open heart surgery, conducting a music performance, leading a classroom or attending a live fire call are just a few of the opportunities students can receive through the Sioux City public schools’ internship program.
At the district’s Career Academy, high school students can participate in an internship program at one of many businesses throughout Siouxland and experience workforces in a way many wouldn’t access until college.
The internship program started in 2019 with a few local businesses and medical clinics. The goal is to give students the opportunity to apply what they learn in the classroom and learn if it is a career they want to pursue, said Anthony Gaul, one of the program organizers.
Students intern for one semester and earn high school credits at one of 35 businesses throughout the region. Healthcare and education are the largest areas for internships.
Currently there are close to 40 students doing internships with teachers in the district, Gaul said.
“The teachers that have a lot of those kids are coming back and saying ‘this is stuff we wouldn’t get to do until student teaching or a very late practicum,’” he said.
West High student Kellesse Heard is currently interning at the neonatal intensive care unit at UnityPoint Health — St. Luke’s.
She always wanted to go into the medical field and the NICU stood out to her. She gets to feed the babies, check temperatures, change diapers, checking vitals and learn from the nurses.
She said her internship is an eye-opening experience.
“This is a way to really jump ahead and really get started before you get out of school,” she said.
Gaul said this is an opportunity for students to try out a career to see if they love it, before spending thousands of dollars on a college degree or a technical program.
“We’d all like to have a job that we love, not just like,” he said.
Due to the pandemic, many of the opportunities were halted, but some, such as those in medical fields, were able to continue their internship experiences.
This year, 120 students have done internships.
Not only does the program provide the students an inside look to potential careers, Gaul said it teaches them about professional relationship building and workplace standards.
Great West Casualty Company in South Sioux City is helping the district teach students about communication, soft skills, appropriate dress and interpersonal interactions. Other businesses are helping with building resumes and conducting interviews.
“Whether they want to leave high school and go into the workforce, go into a trade, a two-year degree, a four-year degree or an advanced degree that we help push them along where they need to go,” Gaul said.
The program has led to potential future employment opportunities and part time employment.
“This is a basically a three to four month job interview for a lot of these kids,” he said.
Through the program, Gaul is hoping the relationships the students build will bring them back to the community after college.
The next step for the program is to expand the internship opportunities. While they have numerous internships in education and healthcare, Gaul is hoping to find businesses focused on technology and engineering.