ROGERS -- New Technology High School on Wednesday hosted its second Careers and Internships Job Fair.
All 620 students at the school attended, rotating through in groups of about 50 throughout the first half of the school day, said William Felts, school internship facilitator.
About 35 businesses seeking employees and offering internships were scheduled to participate, he said. Inclement weather cut the number to about 20.
Student job seekers could talk with employers and fill out applications, but the emphasis was internships, Felts said.
Lance Arbuckle, principal, said the school actively develops internship opportunities for students so they can figure out what career they'd like as much as what they don't want.
"Part of our job as educators is to make those connections for kids or put them in situations where they can make those connections themselves," he said.
Carey Lingenfelter, general manager at Home Instead, a senior care service in Rogers, is actively seeking high school interns to provide in-home care for seniors, such as helping them run errands or cook meals.
In-home care is a great opportunity for high school students who may be seeking a career in the medical field, he said. The service will pay interns as much $16 per hour and will help students receive some of the initial training and certifications they need to begin a career in health care.
The service's elderly clients are particularly fond of receiving support from young people, Lingenfelter said.
"They have a lifetime of experience that they want to share," he said.
Alain Salinas, 17, is a senior who's been a customer service intern for about a year with Karen Williams State Farm in Rogers. He's getting paid $11 per hour to work in the office and answer questions for customers, he said.
"I love it. I really appreciate that they accepted me," he said, noting it's unusual for an insurance office to hire a high school student.
Salinas has enjoyed the experience so much, he's planning on making insurance a career after high school.
"I could become anything in the field," he said. "I could be my own agent one day and have my own office."
Chris Henslee, computer support lead with Outdoor Cap of Bentonville, a ball cap customization and retailer, said the company has been working with district high school interns for four years.
"It's satisfying to see them develop in a professional role," he said.
The company employs two high school interns, Henslee said, who help with computer and printer repairs and other tasks. Students are paid from $12 to $15 per hour, he said.
Students who are juniors or seniors may participate in internships, which fall under the umbrella of work-based learning for the state, said Dawn Stewart, Rogers career and technical education director.
Work-based learning allows students to gain skills that can be applied in the workplace, she said.
Arkansas Department of Education standards require students to participate in internships for 90 hours per semester, complete in-class requirements and receive National Career Readiness Credential certification to receive credit for internships, Felts said.
Internships can be for a semester or a year, creating opportunities for students to get as many as two class credits for interning, he said.
Internships can be paid or unpaid, he said. The state minimum wage is $11 per hour, according to the Arkansas Department of Labor and Licensing.
"Many times, once they see how good our kids are and what they can do and what they can get out of this relationship, they will start paying," Felts said of unpaid internships.
New Tech has about 75 students participating in internships, he said. Some 112 Rogers businesses offer high school internship opportunities for the school, he said.
The district has 229 interns working with the support of about 75 businesses, Stewart said.
Some of Northwest Arkansas' larger districts also offer internship opportunities, according to administrators. Springdale has about 86 interns this school year and Bentonville had 399 in the 2019-20 school year, the latest year available. Fayetteville didn't provide information on how many internships it currently offers, but district spokesman Alan Wilbourn said he suspects they've been greatly diminished due to the pandemic.
Many Bentonville employers continued to support internships during the pandemic, said Jennifer Morrow, secondary education executive director for the district.
"There are some places that the internships never missed a beat, and students kept right on going into those places," she said.
Others allowed students to work remotely from home or the classroom, she said.
Kelley Williamson, Springdale career and technical education coordinator, said getting internships online has been challenging during the pandemic.
"Many of those employers took their business home, and so there was no business for our interns," she said.
Rogers focused on the required certification for internship credit, Stewart said. The district also invited employers into the high schools to work with teams of interns to accomplish assigned tasks and projects, just as they would teams of employees in the workplace.
Lingenfelter said he doesn't anticipate the pandemic hindering internships with Home Instead for students, although he might have thought differently when it began.
"What the last year has taught all of us is that we are more capable of utilizing technology than we realized," he said, noting high school students are typically tech savvy. "Any high school student who might be looking for a career in health care would be a great intern for an organization like ours."
Additional information on New Technology High School internship opportunities is available at https://www.rogersschools.net/domain/896 .
Source: New Technology High School