The Sierra College Internship Program was recently awarded the 2014 College of the Year from the California Internship and Work Experience Association (CIWEA). The award reads: “In recognition of your leadership and commitment to providing students with an exemplary internship program that emphasizes long-term career development” Each year the CIWEA recognizes employers and colleges/universities which provide exemplary internship or work experience programs. CIWEA does this to highlight best practices and to encourage organizations to continue offering resources and opportunities for student success.
The program was lauded at the Association’s annual conference held in Long Beach April 3-4, 2014. Brook Oliver, Lead Counselor for the Internship Program was present to accept the award. She acknowledged the stalwart support of the College’s Administration, Board and Foundation as well as the program’s faculty advisors and her own staff for the success of the program, along with the professional development opportunities offered through CIWEA and its members.
Sierra College offers an internship program that can be considered both comprehensive and innovative. The College promotes a student career action plan for students that includes career planning classes or workshops, an "exploration" level internship opportunity and then an advanced-level internship within a specific discipline. This progression helps students explore and thoughtfully chose a career direction, and then 'try it out' for a semester to ensure fit and capabilities. Students then develop a matching educational plan to help them accomplish the established career goal and finally, they gain industry-specific experiences for their resume before they exit the program or college. Brooke Oliver stated “The offering of a two-level internship progression as well as a comprehensive and aligned career development plan is, to our knowledge, unique among programs in the state. In a time of decreasing budgets and limited resources overall, we have become quite creative at finding new sources of money and assistance in order to both maintain and improve our program. We are concentrating specific efforts to expand students’ access to opportunities. We have pursued and succeeded in obtaining money and support outside of our program’s district budget in an effort to support, grow and develop despite budget constraints. Our model is based on forming partnerships and ‘selling’ the win-win-win concept of offering internships.”
When funding and enrollment issues threatened to inhibit the program, the program was able to solicit support from the Sierra College Foundation and the President's Office, resulting in the program being the beneficiary of the College's 2013 annual fund-raiser, netting a contribution to the program in excess of $62,000, which is allowing the program to expand internship slots beyond its District budget.
Sierra College Internship Program has developed a self-funded, on-going PSA (Public Safety Assistant) program with two local city police departments, ensuring direct experience in police work as well as expanding security services on the campus. The program is funded through the College's parking enforcement fund and provides for up to 20 PSA's per semester to learn from and serve their community and college, again without affecting the Program's budget. The Program also access’s a number of other federal and state grants that support work-based learning.
In terms of effective evaluation strategies for student progress and achievement, our program has implemented an extensive evaluation process that includes both soft and technical skill development, use of portfolio evaluations when appropriate and integration with discipline curriculum and program-level student learning outcomes. A focus on general workplace competencies is promoted through specific assignments and communication with the site mentor as well as a dedicated grade, equally weighted with technical skill development, which requires evaluation of the student on over 15 identified 21st Century Skills.
“Our internship program goes beyond simply offering work-based experience for our students. We emphasize a long-term career development plan that incorporates internships at two levels. We hold our students to high standards and expectations around soft skill attainment and performance. And, our extensive partnership model both on and off-campus brings attention to the importance of internships in a student’s career and educational plan along with outside funding to support them. It connects our CTE programs more directly with their local industry partners, it builds and strengthens the College’s connection to our local community and meets myriad needs for all involved and out of it all, our program earns the support and resources to expand and develop in innovative ways to continue to meet current and future needs of our students, faculty and local community.” Brook Oliver
For more information about the Internship Program at Sierra College: 916-660-7481.