TAMPA — More than 150 students who attend Hillsborough County high schools are getting a taste of what it's like to be in the working world this summer.
Depending on their field, the teens are working in internships alongside professionals at local establishments such as restaurants, hospitals and banks. Internships are required of students enrolled in career and technical programs at their schools.
“Career and technical education is all about preparing the student to go into the workforce,” said Chris Jargo, the school district's assistant director for career and technical education. “The school-based experience is important to give them basic skills, but the work-based experience is just as important.”
The summer programs help students get a feel for whether they would enjoy a career in the field in which they are interning.
So maritime interns work at the Port of Tampa, and finance interns work in banks and credit unions. Those studying agribusiness work in seed stores or as farm hands. Health science students are doing clinicals in local hospitals.
New this year is a short-term internship program for about 25 culinary students. Those students spend up to two weeks rotating through jobs in local eateries like the Columbia Restaurant and Mise en Place.
“If they do a great job, sometimes they get hired,” Jargo said.
Suncoast Credit Union hired 11 interns out of 30 candidates from Jefferson, Brandon and Armwood high schools this summer. For six weeks, the students work 40-hour per week at the administrative office on Hillsborough Avenue, collecting a paycheck and attending weekly training sessions.
The credit union's internship program is more than 10 years old. The students, who are paid $9 per hour, are halfway through their internships.
Johnathan Navarro, who will be a senior at Jefferson High School in the fall, is in the learning and development department at Suncoast. He has taken classes through Jefferson's finance academy since his freshman year.
The internship isn't his first job, but it is the first one that has made him feel like a professional adult with a career, he said.
He starts off the work day at 8:30 a.m. with a cup of coffee before checking emails at his desk. He spends the rest of the day working on projects he's been assigned.
His latest assignment is photographing historical documents for a collage that will be displayed in the credit union's board room.
“I've always wanted to get into the financial world,” he said. “I didn't think I'd be so involved coming into an internship. I'd expect to do grunt work. I feel I've been placed perfectly.”
After high school, Johnathan plans to study film production and business in college.
“Working for a company that's this big, established and successful will only help me in the long run,” he said.
Shameka Archer, 33, was an intern in the credit union's accounting department as a senior in Jefferson's finance academy in 1998. In May, she began working there again, but this time as a recruiter in human resources.
From her intern days, Archer remembers getting a foundation in professionalism and working as part of a team. Now, she encourages this year's interns to learn from their experience there.
“The opportunity gave me a good idea of how to learn what I wanted to do for my future,” she said.