Externships prepare teachers to answer the perennial question: Why am I learning this?
Few experiences are more fun than watching middle-and high school students tour our shops and job sites. Their fascination with processes like laser cutting, drafting, and welding helps our team see our craftsmanship with fresh eyes.
What if we can find a way to immerse teachers in the real world learning opportunities of the workplace, and have them take that knowledge and experience back to their students?
But as rewarding as these student visits are – and we can’t wait to begin hosting them again – we only get to be with these young people for an hour or so. Teachers, though, are ideally positioned to guide young people toward rewarding careers and futures every school day. What if we can find a way to immerse teachers in the real world learning opportunities of the workplace, and have them take that knowledge and experience back to their students?
Three years ago, U.S. Engineering began sponsoring “teacher externships.” In an externship, teachers work alongside our team and learn about our mechanical construction businesses. They attend our meetings, spend time at manufacturing facilities and work on the types of projects their students might potentially be engaged in as future team members.
Through externships, teachers can expand their knowledge and networks and participate in experiences that they can bring back into their classrooms.
These “real life” lessons can be as basic as prepping for our job interview process, and as specific as explaining how we help building owners reduce the total cost of selecting, installing, and maintaining mechanical systems in their buildings.
Externships are a particularly relevant form of professional development. These opportunities provide teachers with tools to motivate students and they help answer the perennial question: “Why should I learn about this?”
The greater Kansas City region has resolved to make sure every student leaves high school with an experience or credential he or she can confidently take to college or the workplace. During the pandemic, we worked with schools and community partners to find more creative ways to give students needed exposure to real-world learning, including virtual internships, online career exploration, and client-connected projects. Going forward, we’ll need to expand and grow the ways we connect with young people who will be our future team members and citizens.
Externships are a particularly relevant form of professional development. These opportunities provide teachers with tools to motivate students and they help answer the perennial question: ‘Why should I learn this?’
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation have made it easy for companies to get started by launching a partnership called Show-Me Careers Kansas City. This initiative seeks business partners able to host up to 80 teachers for one-week mini-externships this summer. The Olathe Public Schools already has an established externship program, and other districts on both sides of the state line are getting started.
We love the energy and curiosity that students bring to us through our internship programs. Teachers also come with life experience and perspective. Their creativity and problem-solving techniques provide inspiration for our business while we help make them better teachers for their students.
U.S. Engineering also gains meaningful relationships with our education partners. Businesses and educators should not operate in separate boxes. There are many ways for us to engage with one another to create mutual benefits – especially for the next generation.
Externships can be life-changing experiences for teachers and students. With Show-Me Careers Kansas City and Real World Learning, we are working together to open workforce doors to many more educators this year. With sustained effort, we’ll see their students walk through our doors, prepared to contribute in the not-so-distant future.
Invest in the next generation by investing in a teacher – provide a teacher externship through Real World Learning.
OpEd written by Tyler Nottberg. Tyler is the chairman and CEO of U.S. Engineering Company Holdings, a founder of the nonprofit organization Aligned, and is a member of CEOs for Real World Learning.