On June 15, 103 proud New York City high school students had a great deal to be thankful for – their graduation from Scholars At Work (SAW), a highly competitive citywide program that pairs students with transportation and manufacturing businesses for 13-week paid internships. By the end of the program, the students come away with solid work experience, knowledge about an industry and job they’re interested in, professional networks that will open doors to positions in high-demand sectors, and quite possibly, a job offer.
Since inception in 2010, SAW—funded by the New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS) and the Department of Education (DOE), in collaboration with Grant Associates, which coordinates the program through the NYC Industrial and Transportation Career Center it operates in Queens—has connected more than 1,000 New York City high school and college students from all five boroughs who are pursuing Career and Technical Education (CTE) or advanced technical degrees, with employers and experts in the transportation and manufacturing sectors, giving them a keen advantage in the job market.
“Both students and employers equally benefit from participating in SAW,” said Gavaskar Reid, Internship Coordinator, Grant Associates. “The students gain an opportunity to demonstrate both their technical and professional skills in an actual work environment, while businesses are able to enhance workplace productivity and take advantage of no-cost labor.”
This year’s graduates were recruited from 16 CTE schools and completed internships at 51 transportation and manufacturing companies located throughout the city. In 2014, 13 high schools and one college, City Tech, participated, graduating 90 students from internships – 81 CTE students and 9 City Tech students – at 42 transportation and manufacturing businesses.
Since its inception, SAW has flourished from 17 to more than 1,000 student interns from industry-related high schools, including Automotive High School, Aviation High School, and the East New York High School for Transit Technology (Transit Tech).
“Year after year, SAW has been making greater efforts to recruit more schools, students, and businesses,” Mr. Reid said. “However, our employer partners have been equally helpful in expanding the program, often referring other employers to the program. And because many students have obtained permanent positions at their internship site, there are cases in which alumni interns are able to supervise the newer interns. This self-replicating process is not only enlarging the program in scope, but is helping young people to become better workers as they learn from each other.”
The 2015 graduation was held at the Urban Assembly for Green Careers in Manhattan and was attended by the interns, their families, the SAW team from Grant Associates, and representatives from SBS and the NYCDOE. The ceremony was followed by an appreciation dinner for the employers who hosted the interns.
The employer speaker was Dan Orme, Regional Services Manager for Ecological Solutions. Brenda Masionet, a senior from New York Harbor School who completed an internship at McAllister Towing & Transportation, spoke on behalf of her fellow interns.
ITC Director Jessica Cracchiolo emceed the event. The Scholars at Work team from Grant Associates includes Tanya Orr, Education Services Manager; Verna Hamilton, Internship Coordinator; Gavaskar Reid, Internship Coordinator; Olympia Kneifati-Hayek, Career Exploration Coordinator; and Andy Kertesz, Business Relationship Manager.
SAW is open to students in their last year of high school who are recruited each December from CTE high schools identified by the Department of Education. Students come from various disciplines of study, including architecture, automotive, computer systems support, construction, electrical, engineering, robotics and transit technology.
After a rigorous application and interview process, students are selected for entry into the SAW program. Prior to the start of their internship in mid-February, the students go through an intensive two-week work readiness course, conducted by Grant Associates’ SAW Internship Coordinators. The workshop focuses on workplace etiquette, business communication and elevator pitch practice, among other topics, and provides an introduction to the city’s workforce services and an overview of the manufacturing and transportation industries. Students receive their internship assignment at the conclusion of the workshop and attend monthly cohort meetings to hear talks from industry speakers and to share their experiences with their peers. Interns are monitored regularly by the Internship Coordinator staff with onsite follow-up visits and regular communication with the employer and intern about the intern’s progress. The internship concludes in the spring with a graduation celebration for the interns, their parents, the employers and the program funders.
SAW distinguishes itself from other youth-based internship programs because it cultivates the soft skills employers seek while developing the technical skills practiced within the classroom shop. As a result, employer partners actively seek an opportunity to host a SAW intern, serve as an industry speaker, and be first in line to offer students graduating with CTE-endorsed diplomas an entry-level position within their company. In addition, ITC provides on-going placement services for all SAW graduates, including a dedicated technical education career fair.