Are professional internships for high school students the next trend in education?

Superintendents Kent P. Scribner and Marcelo Cavazos want to meet North Texas’ future workforce needs with a focus on helping more high school students be internship-ready.

The two education leaders, who represent Fort Worth and Arlington schools, said Thursday business can help prepare students for jobs if they open their doors to high school internships. Collectively, the two districts teach about 140,000 Tarrant County students.

“Our students are exceptionally prepared,” Cavazos said during the 16th Annual State of Public Education event in downtown hosted by the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.

Scribner and Cavazos answered a series of questions by moderator Greg Karol, vice president of human resources at Lockheed Martin.

Business and education leaders from Tarrant County were in the audience.

A central theme that emerged from the discussion is a call by the superintendents for businesses to invest in students and to be open to the idea that high school students can handle a professional internship.

For example, Arlington schools and Lockheed Martin began an internship program for high school students in 2014.

“I think student internships is the future,” Cavazos said. “It is also our current reality in Arlington.”

Arlington offers internship pathways in several areas, including health, hospitality, STEM and manufacturing. Cavazos said several graduates have been hired into full-time positions with benefits at Composite Technology Inc. and Flex-N-Gate after their internships. Some of these jobs pay more than $50,000, he said.

The push for more high school internships is part of a larger discussion on career and technology and higher education learning taking place in North Texas. Both school districts showcased academic programs that allow students to earn professional certifications and college credits.

Students are graduating from high school with professional certifications in hand along with diplomas. In Arlington, the number of certifications obtained by students is growing. In 2017-2018, students earned 492 certifications. Last school year, 1,542 certifications were earned.

Cavazos said the high school piece is part of broader approach to teaching students. It begins with pre-kindergarten and continues in elementary school and middle school.

An investment in education

Scribner told business leaders Fort Worth students are not broken. He said many are working to gain college credits before graduation.

“They are assets that need to be invested in,” Scribner said.

Scribner introduced to the audience Fort Worth students Amari Rabb and Jocelyne Covarrubias, who are participating in specialized programs that will allow them to graduate with numerous college credits.

Covarrubias, a senior at Western Hills High School, said she will be considered a junior when she goes into college based on the college credits she has earned through the International Baccalaureate program.

“I feel like the IB program has definitely taught me how to time manage and pushed me to think a lot more,” she said.

Rabb said he expects to graduate with an associate’s degree from Marine Creek Collegiate High School. That accomplishment is part of his larger plan to fulfill his dying father’s wish.

“I can always keep the promise I made to my father before he passed away — to go to college,” said Rabb, whose father died in 2012 when he was 10.

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