High school students don’t always have access to real-world learning and hands-on training. These kinds of experiences can be invaluable for students when making post-secondary education and career-path decisions. Internship programs that provide such experiences can be beneficial employment recruitment tools for the organizations that extend them and the participating students.
That's why SEPTA has offered summer internships for high school students for almost all of its 55-year existence. During the 2018-2019 academic year, SEPTA welcomed Philadelphia students from three technical schools as part of the High School Business Education Partnership (BEP) - the Authority’s first-ever school-year maintenance program (also the first internship program offered by the SEPTA’s Facilities Maintenance Division). Seven students recently celebrated their graduation from the program: four in Bus Automotive Technology and three in Elevator- Escalator Maintenance.
The BEP grant was awarded to Philadelphia Works in partnership with the Philadelphia Youth Network, School District of Philadelphia, SEPTA and Rhoads Industries and designed to give high school students the opportunity to obtain career related work-based learning experiences. Students who met the academic criteria were recommended by their teachers and endorsed by the School District of Philadelphia before being interviewed by SEPTA. From November-May, students worked one eight-hour day a week, from 6am-3pm.
“The fact that the students were here at 6 a.m. speaks to their dedication,” said Stephanie Deiger, SEPTA assistant GM of Employee Development and Relations.
Students received classroom and on-the-job training. They were each assigned an instructor as they demonstrated inspections and maintenance procedures for the designated departments. Instructors combined theory and practical applications including electrical and shop safety, usage of hand tools and preventative maintenance inspection training.
All of the program participants may have just found their professional calling. At their program graduation ceremony, students took to the podium to express their gratitude toward SEPTA and the staff, as well as their desire to work for the Authority in the future.
Becoming a full-time SEPTA employee is not an unattainable goal for the graduates. John Miller, the Authority’s Chief Technical Instructor for Bus, still has his 1970 SEPTA student internship identification card. Irving Then, who attended the graduation ceremony, once found himself in the same position at the BEP participants.
“Irving attended our High School Summer Internship Program at our Berridge Shop after graduating from Philadelphia’s Swenson Arts and Technology High School in 2010,” said Miller. “In 2012, Irving was hired as bus apprentice. He successfully completed that program, passed the performance test and was promoted to first class vehicle equipment maintenance mechanic in 2015. Since then, Irving completed Bus HVAC Specialist School and passed the performance test. He was promoted to HVAC specialist in 2017.”
Being involved in partnerships such as BEP helps organizations like SEPTA create pipelines to jobs. The success of these programs relies on the commitment of students and employee instructors.