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California City Solutions: Thousand Oaks Develops Successful Youth Internship Program

July 29, 2016
This story is part of an ongoing series featuring Helen Putnam Award entries.
 
The 2015 entries are available on the League’s website as a resource for cities in a searchable database called California City Solutions. Thousand Oaks C.I.T.Y. was submitted in 2015 for the Community Services and Economic Development award category.
 
Every other year, the Thousand Oaks Youth Commission, an advisory body to the Thousand Oaks City Council, hosts its Leadership Summit. Youth have the opportunity at the summit to share their concerns and ideas with community leaders and the youth commission.
 
After reviewing the results from the 2012 and 2014 summits, it became clear that high school youth wanted more opportunities for meaningful employment, volunteer service, and internships to help gain hands-on experience outside of the classroom. Many attributed the lack of opportunities to the economic downturn and the fact that adults were accepting positions that would normally be offered to high school students. This left students unemployed and with too much time on their hands especially during the summer months.
 
The commission voted to create a program in 2014 designed to help high school students obtain meaningful internships. The team researched internships across the nation, developed a plan called Community Internships Training Youth (C.I.T.Y.) that would work with the community, and presented it to the city council. The commissioners produced a basic C.I.T.Y. program outline with four main objectives in mind:
  1. Provide 11th grade students information to help them make college and career decisions;
  2. Include a career skills educational component;
  3. Provide application and interview training; and
  4. Provide quality internships with meaningful and relevant experience. 
The youth realized the value of partnerships and searched for those that could benefit the program in specific areas of expertise. This resulted in a partnership between the city, volunteer youth commission, institution of higher learning, business collaborative, local school district, and a nonprofit.
 
Each agency provided a representative to meet and develop a memorandum of understanding and details for the program. Each partner, business, and student has a role.
 
Principal Partners are responsible for establishing and implementing the youth internship program. The general responsibilities include:
  • Communicating the goals and expectations of the program to the community;
  • Providing resources to support the program;
  • Overseeing communication of information and recruit business partners;
  • Communicating information to students, collect student applications and select eligible participants to forward to businesses;
  • Developing and conduct interview skills instruction;
  • Developing curriculum and conduct life/career skills learning classes;
  • Hosting informational and graduation events; and
  • Serving as the central source of information and perform administrative duties. 
Businesses that take an intern agree to:
  • Provide a job description for recruitment, interview and select interns;
  • Provide intern(s) with realistic, challenging assignments that facilitate learning and have a benefit to the business;
  • Serve as a mentor, sharing experiences in the career and giving suggestions for entering the profession;
  • Meet with intern(s) regularly to guide performance, answer questions, and provide resources related to the intern's work;
  • Submit final student and program evaluations; and
  • Attend a graduation ceremony. 
Student interns are responsible for:
  • Selecting an internship appropriate with career goals;
  • Work the required number of hours;
  • Learning about and act in a manner consistent with business "culture" and its commitment to a high level of service and its core mission;
  • Maintaining high standards of professionalism while at the internship site;
  • Seeking supervision and assistance at the worksite as needed;
  • Completing academic tasks required to participate in the program; i.e., attend classes;
  • Submitting a program evaluation; and
  • Attending graduation ceremony. 
C.I.T.Y. helps the community by developing young people and introducing them to local businesses and a local college. City leaders hope that it may encourage students to stay and work in the area, which will provide the next generation needed for future sustainability.
 
For the 2014 summer program, nine businesses participated and 19 students were placed. All program evaluations were positive and all students indicated they believed it will benefit them in the future. Two of the interns were hired as permanent employees. The college experience component encouraged two students to consider college that didn't necessarily have college in their plans. Additionally, one intern created the local public library mobile app, which has become very popular.
 
The 2015 program showed an increase in participants with 47 students placed at 23 participating businesses. The internships during 2015 offer a wide variety of experiences: senior services, medical services, hospitality, real estate, recreation, educational publishing, manufacturing, library services, engineering, environmental services, administrative services, event planning, journalism and more. In addition to the six partners, the team also placed interns with the Ventura County, Conejo Recreation and Park District, Thousand Oaks Public Library, local nonprofits and businesses.


 
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