learn / 2014

The Intern Project: The Transformative Power of Internships

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by The Los Angeles Fund For Public Education (The LA Fund)

The Intern Project (TIP) transforms the lives of LAUSD youth by placing them in paid internships with high-profile businesses.

Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

The Intern Project (TIP) transforms the lives of LAUSD youth by placing them in paid internships with high-profile businesses.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits a population of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • San Fernando Valley
  • Westside

What is your idea/project in more detail?

TIP transforms the lives of selected LAUSD high school students by providing them with coaching and paid internships with high-profile businesses.

TIP was born out of the LA Fund’s beliefs that summer internships are transformative experiences that have long-lasting effects on a student’s academic life and future career, and our students should be afforded access to these opportunities.

The LA Fund, working in partnership with LAUSD to support Linked Learning, will grow TIP in 2015 by providing the flagship model for student support and internships. The LA Fund will expand the number of internships, provide marketing / communication leadership for Linked Learning and career pathways, and recruit new businesses and serve as a liaison.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

The LA Fund launched the summer 2014 TIP pilot with 17 LAUSD students matched with 13 business partners to identify best practices and challenges to expansion. This pilot will directly inform the LAUSD’s planning for district-wide expansion of internships and Linked Learning programs as well as support LA Fund Board Member Mayor Garcetti’s goal of 10,000 summer jobs. Implementation in 2015 will focus on the following components:

School and student outreach: For the pilot year, 8 LAUSD high schools were targeted. For 2015, we will target 25 high schools with Linked Learning pathways. Our goal is to support between 60 and 72 students and provide them with highly competitive paid internships and support.

Integrated coaching program: The LA Fund hired a seasoned coach with deep experience in mentoring and training youth to support our pilot cohort. We will continue with and expand this model, which included training on business skills, workplace culture, on-line communication and networking strategies, professional and personal growth and goal setting, as well as ongoing one-on-one support.

Business partner outreach and support: The LA Fund and its Board will again leverage relationships to recruit business partners and provide high-touch support. We will again hire a program coordinator to serve as a liaison with LAUSD and support businesses as they, in many cases, create new internship programs.

Communications and documentation: We both filmed our pilot program and asked interns to document their experiences to understand the impact and challenges of the program and to create communication tools for LAUSD and LA Fund for program expansion. Video and written journals and blogs are being edited and will soon be pushed out on social media and other channels to engage the community.

Planning and project management support: We will work with LAUSD to support expansion of Linked Learning programs, business partnerships, and student internships.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to LEARN today? In 2050?

In LAUSD, 80% of students come from economically disadvantaged communities and do not have the educational opportunities and support systems they need to achieve their potential. They often lack professional role models and stable community support systems, fail to complete high school, and face high rates of poverty. Furthermore, we know that competing in today’s economy requires more than a high school degree, and real economic opportunity requires much more. Providing meaningful internships and support not only engages students in their high school studies but also helps them build the confidence they need to pursue college and careers.

Helping schools make connections with businesses, providing students with internships, and supporting the growth of Linked Learning will be transformational for LAUSD high schools. Businesses participating during the pilot year have responded with a strong desire to continue their involvement and others have heard through word of mouth and want to join next year. Schools, teachers and parents are thrilled that their students are getting access to unique and rewarding internship opportunities. Students have raved about their work experiences, and how they have developed new relationships and learned new skills. LAUSD is primed to expand their Linked Learning pathways and need partners like the LA Fund who can help make connections with businesses and create meaningful opportunities for our students. The time is right, the partners are in place, we have experience in providing internships for students, and have the capacity to grow this work.

It is our goal to build upon this momentum in the coming year and work in partnership with LAUSD and continue to support the Mayor’s summer jobs program to reach more schools and students and transform the high school experience.

Whom will your project benefit?

There are four constituents that benefit from an expanded TIP program:

Students and their families: A summer internship is a transformative experience that has long-lasting effects on a student’s academic life and future career. Selected LAUSD students receive paid internships (at least the minimum wage per hour) at leading, high-profile businesses that are in their fields of interest. Developing partnerships that will provide students the unique skills and experiences garnered by an internship can positively impact the workforce of our city in the future (National League of Cities, 2012; Darling-Hammond and Post, 2000). This has an exponential potential to affect students, their families, and the communities they live in.

High-profile, LA-based businesses: These businesses are able to onboard stellar LAUSD talent to provide meaningful internship opportunities within their community. Businesses are able to hire LAUSD talent in an easy fashion given the work the LA Fund performs in sourcing LAUSD talent and providing an integrated coaching program. Anecdotally, the businesses participating in TIP are reporting a boost in their company’s morale.

The City of Los Angeles: More established links between businesses, schools, and students only serve to benefit the quality of life in Los Angeles by increasing employment and creating closer social bonds with public schools and local communities.

Those who access social media: The experiences of TIP interns are being distilled in a way that is easily accessible and digestible via social media. Students and businesses from around the world can learn about the experiences of TIP interns and business partners.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Business partners during the pilot year were carefully selected based on their leadership and innovation in their respective industries, their excitement to host a TIP intern and take part in the TIP pilot program, and their willingness to ensure that the three factors for a successful collaboration would be met:

  1. Commitment to pay at least the minimum wage per hour for each TIP intern.

  2. Ensure a meaningful work experience that would challenge a TIP intern and inform his/her future career direction.

  3. Provide the on-the-job mentorship and training needed to ensure a positive experience. In some cases, the TIP internship is a student’s first experience in a professional setting.

The TIP 2014 pilot included the following, high-profile internships:

Atom Factory (entertainment) Bad Robot Productions (entertainment) Border Grill (culinary) Chernin Entertainment (entertainment) El Rey (entertainment) Fullscreen (entertainment) Illumination Entertainment (entertainment) Kaiser Permanente (healthcare) Mattel, Inc. (consumer) Michael S. Smith, Inc. (design) Salem Partners (finance) Suzanne Goin’s Tavern Restaurant (culinary) The LA Fund (nonprofit education)

JJ and Katie Abrams financially supported the research and development of the TIP program and Samsung Electronics provided a cash donation and an in-kind donation of 15 Samsung Galaxy Note Tablets for interns to support the social media component of the TIP pilot.

The LA Fund has received positive feedback from the above business partners regarding the work of each TIP intern and their experience in acting as a host. It is our hope to work with all business partners during summer 2015. We are also beginning conversations with new businesses now for summer of 2015 participation.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Learn” metrics?

  • Youth unemployment and underemployment
  • District-wide graduation rates
  • HS student proficiency in English & Language Arts and Math
  • Academic Performance Index scores
  • College matriculation rates
  • Student education pipeline (an integrated network of pre-schools, K-12 institutions, and higher education systems that prepares students for seamless transitions between high school, higher education institutions, and the workforce) (Dream Metric)
  • Suspension and expulsion rates (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

In the short term, TIP immediately addresses the “Youth unemployment and underemployment” metric by providing LAUSD high school students with an integrated coaching program and paid internships with high-profile businesses.

In the mid to long-term, TIP, in partnership with LAUSD will impact the other metrics checked above. The LA Fund believes in the transformative power that internships have on LAUSD students’ academic lives and future careers, thus affecting metrics related to academic performance, graduation rates, matriculation rates, school attendance, and the student education pipeline.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

The LA Fund believes in quantitative and qualitative outcomes to evaluate programs. Methods used during the 2014 pilot will be incorporated and enhanced for the 2015 program and in subsequent years to ensure long-term evaluation.

Detailed survey of TIP interns: Ultimately our client is the student, and their experience is a priority. Understanding the challenges and benefits of their internship experiences is key to ongoing improvement of the program. TIP interns participate in anonymous entry and exit surveys to measure their comfort in the workplace, in communicating and branding themselves as young professionals, and to capture their successes and challenges.

Student success tracking: Tracking the ongoing process and trajectory of TIP interns is imperative to the legitimacy and longevity of the TIP program. As such, the LA Fund has begun to capture information about the first cohort (ranging from GPA to initial career aspirations) and will continue to track high school persistence, college acceptance rates and persistence, and career placements. This database, in addition to being analyzed for any overarching trends, will help provide an ongoing network of support for TIP interns across cohorts.

Film and journal documentation: As a means for formative feedback, the LA Fund is capturing interviews with business partners and students to collect qualitative feedback to examine the challenges and opportunities for TIP. Additionally, this process helps TIP interns become familiar and comfortable with communication via digital and traditional methods and provides an opportunity for reflection and goal setting.

Detailed survey of business partners: Providing a positive experience in which businesses feel supported, is key to retention and growth of the TIP program. Business partners will be provided with an anonymous survey and a phone interview with the LA Fund to fully capture and support data on satisfaction levels, experiences as a host organization, quality of student talent, and willingness to participate next year.

Growth of TIP program: The LA Fund is poised to increase the number of business partners, internship placements, and donations (cash and in-kind). For 2015, we will target 25 high schools with Linked Learning pathways with the goal being to provide internships and support to between 60 and 72 students – an increase of over 250% in one year.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

First lesson: A summer internship is a transformative experience that has long-lasting effect on a student’s academic life and future career. Prior to TIP, LAUSD students had not been afforded these internship opportunities at these companies.

Internship experiences are praised for providing students the opportunity to explore career fields and industries, experience life in the workplace, and determine if a particular sector is the right path for them (Huhman, 2011). Student interns gain new skills, confidence, and begin to develop short and long term career goals while building networks for mentorship, references, and future job opportunities (Huhman, 2011; Smith, 2012). Those students with more resources are able to take unpaid internships, whereas those with fewer resources must either decline or work a second position to pay for the experience, exacerbating socio-economic inequality (Smith, 2012). Finally, and perhaps most importantly, as 80% of LAUSD students live in conditions of poverty, studies have noted that disparate educational outcomes may have less to do with race or class and more to do with unequal access to educational resources and opportunities (Darling-Hammond and Post, 2000; Roscigno and Ainsworth-Darnell, 1999).

Second lesson: That Los Angeles businesses have demonstrated a willingness to provide LAUSD students with paid summer internships. These businesses are looking for meaningful ways to support LA youth and provide mentoring support and job opportunities. With the right support from the LA Fund, they are willing and able to participate in TIP. In addition to the benefits garnered by student participants, research supports that internship hosts gain a better understanding and ability to teach toward different styles and in different contexts, helping grow their organizations (Hsu, Roth, and Mazumder, 2009).

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

Armed with lessons learned from successfully piloting TIP in summer 2014, the LA Fund believes expanding the TIP program in partnership with LAUSD’s Linked Learning programs, engaging more business partners and more interns, and providing an integrated coaching program for summer 2015 is an achievable goal. The LA Fund has the lead time to implement a growth strategy and incorporate the lessons learned from the pilot, but what is needed is the funding to make the second year of TIP a reality.

The LA Fund has a proven track record of working closely with LAUSD leadership, school sites, donors, and key stakeholders to effect systems change. The partnership that the LA Fund has with LAUSD will make a successful 2015 TIP implementation achievable. LAUSD is eager to expand their Linked Learning programs and needs a partner who can work with the business community. The LA Fund is uniquely positioned to manage those relationships and has a history of success and LAUSD is eager to leverage this expertise.

In addition to sharing the knowledge and data derived from the TIP pilot, the LA Fund is prepared to leverage the written and film communications created. TIP was created to highlight the importance of businesses engaging with LAUSD schools and students, and the LA Fund intends to continue to champion and grow this work throughout the Los Angeles community-at-large.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

The challenge is not identifying high quality students, rather, it is ensuring their persistence in the program over the course of the summer.

The cycle of poverty: 80% of LAUSD students live in conditions of poverty and come from economically disadvantaged areas of Los Angeles. Many LAUSD students lack the support systems that facilitate success, and often experience uncertainty, family problems, and other barriers to success. The integrated coaching program of TIP helps address these issues in order to better understand and minimize these barriers that preclude TIP interns from fully participating and succeeding. In year one we did have a large pool of excellent applicants (100+) from which to choose our 17. From sick family members, to difficulty connecting with co-workers and adhering to workplace rules, to managing calendars – all of which TIP pilot interns struggled with in our pilot - having an experienced coach who developed a trusting relationship with the interns allowed us to turn these challenges into lessons for the students and challenges that businesses felt they could work through with us.

Transportation and logistics: Where TIP interns live and where participating business partners are located can be very far from one another. Occasionally, there are logistical difficulties of placing students at matching business partners. To help minimize the burden of transportation, the LA Fund partners provided all TIP interns with free Los Angeles Metro passes. Mapping out students’ schools, homes, and business locations and the transportation opportunities for interns is essential to successful placements as we learned in our pilot.

Immigration status: With estimates that approximately 40% of LAUSD students are undocumented, providing meaningful employment opportunities can provide some real challenges. We had two students participate who had unique situations and we learned how best to handle those conversations with the students, their families, and the business partners resulting in successful experiences for everyone.

What resources does your project need?

  • Network/relationship support
  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Technical infrastructure (computers, etc.)
  • Community outreach