Paid internships available for Tolles students

(Posted Feb. 20, 2024)

Last month, 14 seniors from Jonathan Alder and London high schools started bringing home paychecks along with their report cards, thanks to the new ELITE program offered through Tolles Career and Technical Center.

ELITE, which stands for Experiential Learning in Technical Education, is open to seniors from all 11 high schools affiliated with Tolles and is designed to give students paid, hands-on experience in a career field of their choosing prior to graduation.

“There are students who don’t want to be in school the entire day of their senior year and are just taking a couple of courses so they can graduate,” says Todd Hoadley, Tolles superintendent. “In career tech, we recognize the importance of real-world work experience in shaping students’ life skills. Our goal is to keep students motivated and engaged throughout their senior year, helping them finish high school on a strong note and better prepared for their future careers.”

In addition to Jonathan Alder and London, seniors attending high schools in Dublin, Fairbanks Local, Hilliard, Madison-Plains, and West Jefferson may apply for the ELITE program. Those accepted into the program are carefully matched with a non-retail position at a central Ohio business based on their unique interests and skill sets.

“It’s an opportunity to go out and get a taste of a career-level position you’re interested in to see whether this is really something you may want to do,” says Steve Cawley, Tolles internship coordinator. “You also get a chance to start saving money for your future life –whether that’s going into higher education or the workforce.”

ELITE students work an average of 10 hours per week with four scheduling options – morning, afternoon, outside of school hours, and weekends – that can be mixed and matched to suit the mutual needs of the student’s and employer’s schedules. So far, all students are being paid well above Ohio’s $10.45 per hour minimum wage.

“Our business partners are really stepping up to the plate,” Cawley says. “On average, our students are seeing pay in the $14 to $16 per hour range, but that can also get up into the $20 range, depending on the field.”

Students log weekly hours on a timesheet that the employer must sign. The employer also completes a quarterly progress report, rating the competencies the student has displayed on the job, such as work attitude, organizational skills, teamwork, communication, attendance, and following policies and procedures.

“These are substantial learning opportunities, not just shadowing,” says Kim Hull, support specialist for the ELITE program. “These students are being given real projects and tasks from our business partners.”

“They’re providing value to these businesses and, in return, a lot of our business partners are treating these students as valuable cogs, including them in their celebratory lunches for meeting company goals, for example,” Cawley says. “They really appreciate them.”

Cawley says he expects at least 25 seniors to be accepted into the ELITE program this coming fall as more students learn about the opportunity.

“I could even see it up to the 50 to 75 range,” he says. “We’re giving students the opportunity to get out into the workforce to see what happens in the career they’re choosing. It’s going to benefit them greatly however they continue on their career pathway, even if they find out it’s not what they want to do.”

Seniors interested in the ELITE program must have a 95 percent attendance rate at their home high school, have no record of major discipline issues, have a minimum 2.5 grade point average, be on track to graduate, maintain a grade of C or better in all classes, get a recommendation from their guidance counselor or school administrator, and provide their own transportation to and from the workplace.

“There are a lot of boxes that need to be checked, but the students we have enrolled right now are very happy,” Hull says. “I am constantly amazed at the enthusiasm that I am encountering from both our students and the businesses with which they are placed.”

Students can enroll in ELITE for just one semester or for their entire senior year.

“They can stay with the same employer for the whole year or change employers at the break,” Cawley says, noting ELITE students can also earn one elective credit at their home high school if they work 180 hours in a semester.

“We’re working on developing some additional curriculum for students, like resume writing, developing a LinkedIn profile and an elevator speech–little things they can do to build their skills and log some hours before they are placed in their internships,” Hull says, adding that, unlike some other programs, ELITE students do not have to line up their own internships. Tolles does it for them.

“We even set up an interview with the student and the business partner to make sure it’s a good fit. This is such a unique and exciting opportunity for students,” Hull says.

To learn more, contact Cawley at scawley@tollestech.com or (614) 873-4666 ext. 4361.

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