Welcome to our series, COVID-19 Innovations. Here, we chronicle the innovative ways that career and technical educators continue to engage students as lifelong learners and prepare them for rewarding careers, even as the COVID-19 pandemic has upended the 2020–21 school year.
YouthForce Internship (YFI) offers a paid work experience and training program for high school students that includes 60 hours of work-readiness training and a 90-hour internship. It is one service of YouthForce NOLA, an education, business and civic collaborative that prepares public school students in New Orleans, Louisiana, for high-wage, high-demand career pathways.
Developing and supporting virtual experiences
Due to COVID-19, YFI pivoted to remote participation. Interns were paired with either a technical training provider or an employer partner, matched based on interest in one of YouthForce NOLA’s skill clusters:
- Health sciences
- Digital media/IT
- Skilled crafts
- Business services
Students who paired with training providers gained technical and employability skills. They earned credentials — such as NCCER Project Management — and got exposure to a variety of career options, including those they may not have previously considered. Students paired with employers formed small “consultancies” and worked together to solve problems identified by their employer.
To support the virtual model, internship coaches served a smaller case load than normal, and they held office hours to provide additional assistance. Supervisors received additional one-on-one support to develop work plans for a fully virtual experience. YouthForce NOLA also adjusted its resources and worked directly with supervisors and employers to fit the virtual consultancy model.
More opportunities to interact with employers
Interns still needed opportunities to engage with industry professionals, so YFI changed course. Instead of one Industry Exposure Panel with guests from each of the target industry clusters, they hosted four separate industry panels. Virtual formatting reduced the intern-to-panelist ratio, and more interns asked questions than usual.
Interested in more COVID-19 innovations?
ACTE’s latest publication, High-quality CTE During COVID-19: Challenges and Innovations, generously sponsored by MajorClarity, describes challenges faced by CTE educators during COVID-19. The publication shares examples of innovative practices and provides recommendations for how CTE leaders can better prepare the post-COVID-19 workforce, embracing lessons learned during the pandemic.