D303 High School Internship Program A Win-Win

By Jenn McMahon, Director of Human Resources

On May 3, I was given the opportunity to attend the Employer Appreciation Banquet for Community Unit School District 303’s Cooperative Education and Internship Programs. This year, the City participated in the District’s newly launched Project Synergy. This program offers junior and senior students at North and East high schools an opportunity to explore careers. Synergy focuses on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). St. Charles’ Information Services (IS) Department was fortunate enough to have junior Tim Schiopu from East High School work with us. Tim has been exposed to all aspects of the IS Department as they provide internal services to our operating departments making sure the technology those departments need to deliver citizen services are working properly. While I’m sure Tim is grateful for this experience, the City is the real winner in this scenario. We’ve been allowed to watch a young mind grow while reaping the benefits of his knowledge and his enthusiasm to learn. Tim is an asset to the organization.

At the banquet, I sat with Tim as we listened to employers and students relay their experiences. Did you know that District 303 has over 30 employer participants and over 140 students working at local employers? I was so impressed with the work these students are doing and a bit jealous that I wasn’t afforded such an opportunity when I was in high school oh so many years ago. Students participated in preparing cases for court, shepherding a manufactured good from raw material to final product, co-piloting a plane, or (in Tim’s case), ensuring the mobile data terminal (MDT) in a police squad car was up and running.

Go back to those formative years – 16, 17, 18. Did you know what you wanted to do? Did you know how to accomplish it? I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I switched majors at least once while in college. When I landed my first internship after college, I panicked thinking that I had made the wrong choice. With the Cooperative Education and Internship Programs provided by District 303, our young people get to test drive jobs and fields helping them make a future career choice. We, as St. Charles employers, get a chance to meet these amazing students, help develop them and then reap the benefits of their young minds. One employer was so impressed with his student’s work that the employer will be paying for his schooling so the student will return to that employer and begin his career. In such a tight job market, this doesn’t surprise me; a win-win for employer and student alike.

As Director of Human Resources for the City, it will be my goal to enhance our participation in these important programs. The world of local government is experiencing a huge loss of talent as baby boomers retire and there are few to take their place. For the City to continue to employ the best so we can deliver top notch services to our citizens, our burden will be to get young people interested in the field of local government. District 303’s Cooperative Education and Internship Programs is a mechanism to do that.