School district internship program helps students build pathways to careers

L-R: Sullivan Homes COO Aaron Olsen and intern Aubrey Griffin look over paperwork at the Sullivan Homes office in St. George. Griffin interns at Sullivan Homes through a program run by the Washington County School District, St. George, Utah, Jan. 17, 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – For a few hours a day, Snow Canyon High School student Aubrey Griffin works at the Sullivan Homes office in St. George as a part of the Washington County School District’s internship program.

During her time interning at Sullivan Homes, Griffin said she has learned a lot about project management and how to be more organized. She’s also had the opportunity to meet with customers on occasion and has come to be seen as a welcomed addition to the office staff.

“Aubrey’s been fantastic,” said Aaron Olsen, Sullivan Homes chief operations officer. “She’s also got an incredibly big project right now.”

Aubrey Griffin interns at the corporate office of Sullivan Homes in St. George as a part of a program run through the Washington County School District. The aim of the program is to help interns gain skills and experience in fields they wish to pursue while also networking with prospective employers, St. George, Utah, Jan. 17, 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Griffin, 18, is involved in building a digital catalog of the materials and options customers can consult and have incorporated in the home they want Sullivan Homes to build for them.

This has helped Griffin familiarize herself with the system Sullivan Homes uses, Olsen said. On occasion she’s also been able to contribute in meetings between the homebuilder and clients.

“It’s my work and I know it’s good,” Griffin said, not lacking for confidence that she said her internship experience at Sullivan Homes has helped build.

Olsen has already offered Griffin a paid position for the summer. Prior to Griffin’s being accepted for the internship, the previous intern from the school district was offered a job, yet declined due to pursuing other plans, Olsen said.

Sullivan Homes is one of over 200 employers in the county that supports the internship program run by the Washington County School District with the aid of the Department of Workforce Services. In its current form, the internship program launched in January 2017 as a part of Gov. Gary Herbert’s “Talent Ready Utah” workforce initiative.

The initiative aims to get businesses more involved in education through internships and other methods in order to help move students from school and into higher-paying jobs.

The program has been successful, but also competitive, said Mike Hassler, the school district’s work-based education specialist. Not everyone who applies for the program makes it to the end.

Up to 400 students have applied, with just about half making it through the required workshops supplied through Workforce Services. These workshops include training on crafting resumes, as well as how to interview well with a prospective employer.

Only those who apply and are bound and determined to work hard at gaining an internship end up sticking with the program, Hassler said.

“What that has done is taken those students with no drive, who are just trying to ditch school. They just disappear,” Hassler said. “And now we’ve found a way to fine-tune and develop this talent locally. … These students have to be driven and prepared for this.”

After successfully completing the workshops, the students can apply for internships in the field they are most interested in.

Students can apply for a wide array of internships that involve construction, mechanics, health sciences, law and public safety, office management, digital media, hospitality and tourism, and more.

“Aubrey interviewed for her (internship),” Olsen said, adding that she was more prepared for the interview than most regular applicants looking for a job are.

For Sullivan Homes, the internship program has proven to be “a great asset for the company,” Olsen said.

Bonnie Imlay, an educational consultant for Intermountain Healthcare, is also impressed with the program and the caliber of interns it has produced.

I’ve been impressed with the way the school district has done this.” she said. “You can tell those workshops have prepared them well.”

Currently interning at Dixie Regional Medical Center is 18-year-old Jessica Bills of Desert Hills High School, who is working in the hospital’s Neuro Specialty Rehab unit.

“I’m really excited to be working there,” Bills said, adding she plans on pursuing a career as a physical therapist.

Bills’ semester at Dixie Regional will be her second in the internship program. Her first semester was spent at Tri-Fit Therapy.

L-R: Lindsay Pugmire, Dixie Regional Neuro Rehab supervisor, helps patient Sandy Mangaracina move with the aid of intern Jessica Bills. Bills interns at Dixie Regional Medical Center through a program run by the Washington County School District, St. George, Utah, Jan. 19, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Dixie Regional Medical Center, St. George News

“I got to learn everything from working with patients to insurance,” Bills said of her previous internship. Moving to Dixie Regional, an internship that only admits one student per semester, is helping further her goals.

“I had an idea I wanted to go into physical therapy,” she said. “This has help solidify it.”

The Washington County School District’s internship program is geared to help move students forward into the industry of their choice while also helping them ultimately decide on their post-high school pursuits, Hassler said.

Some students may apply to particular colleges, universities or technical schools in order to enter a specific programs now that they know what field they want to pursue, rather than going to school still wondering what they want to do. Others may choose to enter the workforce and apply the skills they have learned through their internships.

Students also get their names out there and are able to network with possible employers, Hassler said, adding that up to 40 percent of the program’s interns have been offered jobs thus far.

I wish I had this program while I was in high school,” Imlay said.

While it takes hard work and determination to get through the internship program, both Griffin and Bills said it’s worth it.

“You’re going to gain so much experience,” Griffin said. “I would say do it.”

“It’s definitely worth it,” Bills said. “If you can do it, do it.”

For more information about the Washington County School District’s internship program and how a student can apply for it, visit the program’s website here.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • asianspa January 31, 2018 at 10:19 pm

    Great Article however, the best pathway to a career is southbound I-15 or Northbound I-15. You may get a career title in S. Utah but you will never get a livable wage. Stack those jobs up, get in an MLM(which one doesn’t matter, your friends are going to block you on fb and call screen you anyways) , and make sure your spouse has a job in sales of some sort … then pray and eat your wheaties! Good luck future leaders… too bad you won’t be allowed to lead here.

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