Future prep at the Boys & Girls Club
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Choosing a career path
Helping students find the right career path is where Ronnicia Johnson-Walker, TOPS and internships program manager, fits in.
Johnson-Walker notes there are a number of opportunities for summer internships and career exploration available to students through the BGCDC.
The club’s Career Exploration program is targeted at students going into their junior year, says Johnson-Walker. It’s a paid, six-week summer program, offering students the opportunity to earn up to $400 by the end of the summer.
“In the past we’ve taken students to the Madison Police Department training facilities, Camp Randall, the Culver’s headquarters, Epic, UW Hospital and Clinics. It prepares the students for the next year when they’re able to apply for an actual internship experience,” Johnson-Walker explains.
Summer internships are 10–20 hours per week, six-week programs offered to high school juniors entering their senior year, along with seniors preparing to graduate. Students are paid anywhere from $8–$15 per hour depending on the internship position they receive.
According to Johnson-Walker, students interested in pursing a summer internship must complete a program called Job Ready 1 in order to be eligible. Job Ready 1 teaches students how to view job postings, apply for a position, complete their resume, and interview. Once students complete Job Ready 1 they’re able to apply for internships.
“For our AVID/TOPS high school internship program we actually do placement,” notes Johnson-Walker. “We interview the students and we place them as we see fit. As the coordinator for the internship program I’ve developed relationships with the businesses and the supervisors so I know exactly what they’re looking for and who would be a good fit.”
Once students are matched with an internship and accept the position, they must complete Job Ready 2, which teaches workplace etiquette, how to answer phones and email, how to dress, and even things as simple as if they’re not able to get a ride to work that day how to call in to let their boss know they won’t be in.
According to Johnson-Walker, one key benefit for the businesses partnering with the BGCDC to fill internships is that it gives the organizations an opportunity to diversify their workforce. More than that though, she notes the internships are a great way to increase exposure for the companies in the community.
“People may not be aware of a lot of the different facets of area companies and organizations,” Johnson-walker explains. “Take hospitals, for example. A lot of students may not realize you don’t have to necessarily be in medicine to work for UW Hospitals and Clinics. They have a billing department, they have an HR department, they have social workers. It’s important for businesses to get the message out there about the different career paths they can offer.”
For students, the internships can connect them with potential employers or help them discover a career path they hadn’t previously considered.
Johnson-Walker recalls a recent high school student who interned at Fiskars last year. The student was interested in a career in marketing and was “dead set on going to business school.”
“His internship with Fiskars included an engineering component and he said he wasn’t interested in engineering,” Johnson-Walker says. “We told him to give it a try anyway — that’s what this program is all about, getting exposure in different fields. His internship was in product marketing and at Fiskars people in product marketing not only assist the engineers with development and drawing it using CAD models, but they also get to test it and see if it will work well in the market and if people will use it. I had him speak at the closing ceremony last August and he said he actually decided to pursue an engineering major after the experience. That was an example for him of seeing how, ‘Maybe I want to go into marketing now but let’s see how that can develop into something else, as well.”