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 Oct. 14, 2016

 

Nextech Internship  
 
While many high schoolers clock into fast food restaurants during
the week to earn a few extra bucks or gain valuable work experience, students from
Arsenal Technical High School’s Career and Technology
Center (CTC)
are working beside industry professionals at some of the top
companies in Indianapolis — even the world.

 

 

Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from noon to 4 p.m.,
17-year-old Rayshaun B. travels from school to his internship at Eli Lilly and Co.’s maintenance
department, where he’s learning skills from employees who have been with the pharmaceutical
giant for 20 years or more.Jake, Damaris and Darrien

 

“When I first started at Lilly, we were just doing computer-based
training in the computer lab and then we deployed to our different departments.
I’m in one of the maintenance shops at Lilly, where I’m learning new things
every day,” said Rayshaun, who was a student in CTC’s welding program before
transferring to Simon Youth
Academy
at Circle Centre to complete his
senior year. “I go on different jobs around Lilly. One day we’re cleaning the
tanks where the medicine is made or putting together and fixing pumps. I’m also
learning about sheet metal and pipefitting.”

During breaks from school, Rayshaun often works five days a
week at Lilly – putting in an eight-hour day.

 

Just a few miles away from Lilly’s campus, Damaris M. spent
six weeks during summer break from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, inside Nextech’s offices in downtown Indianapolis
learning everything she could about computer programming.

 

 

Damaris is one of 10 IPS students (juniors and seniors) in
Nextech’s Catapult program — a
12-month immersive, work-based learning and career-readiness tech experience.
This past summer, students participated in an intensive coding boot camp, visited
tech companies throughout the city, and created impressive online portfolios for
their team projects and solo projects.

 

Inside Daramis’ portfolio is an interactive game she
created.

 

“It’s like a ‘live or die’ type of game, where you read a
small caption and then have to make the decision to go left or right. It’s
actually a horror game where you’re stuck in this building and have to decide
how to get out,” said the 17-year-old senior in Arsenal Tech’s Math and Science
Academy. She’s also enrolled in a computer science class through CTC.

 

Throughout the school year, Damaris will be working on a
project while paired with a local tech professional through Nextech’s Catapult
program.

Although the jobs Rayshaun and Damaris have aren’t typical for
high school students, they have become the norm through the CTC internships
(many of which are paid).

 

Since its inception in 2013, the number of CTC internship
opportunities for IPS students has grown exponentially — from six interns during
the 2013-2014 school year to 63 during the 2015-2016 school year.

 

“Our goal this year is to be at 90 or more interns,” said
Ben Carter, director of Career and Technical Education. Currently, 27 students
have internships. However, many take place during second semester and summer
break.

 

The internships or co-ops often come through partnerships
made or relationships built between local companies and the CTC program,
according to Derrick Barnett, CTC’s community partnership coordinator. This
year, between 15–20 employer-partners will provide internships for students.

 

“Some of the ways that we come across these internships are
multifaceted,” said Barnett. “It could be someone contacting someone at the
board level, through our director Ben Carter or through the networks I have
because of my extensive background in workforce development.”

 

The internships offered relate to CTC’s 15 career pathways.
Through these pathways, students can earn industry certification and gain
knowledge and marketable skills in computer science, culinary arts, welding
technology, animal science, TV broadcasting and more.

 

“These are comprehensive internships (students have
completed two years of their career pathway program and the internship is
aligned to that specific pathway,” added Carter.

 

In fact, several students in the culinary arts program were
recently awarded internships to work at The Alexander, a hotel in downtown
Indianapolis.

 

“These internships really give students an opportunity to
utilize the skills that they learn in the classroom. It gives them real-world
experience and a chance to work alongside professionals in the industry,” said
Barnett, who monitors students’ progress in their respective internships and
even transports some of them to and from job sites throughout the school day.
“Students not only gain industry skills, they also learn soft skills, like
getting to work on time, working in team environments, learning how to use
email formally, answering the phone. … It’s a really good way for students who
have limited work experience to get a feel for what the workplace is
like.” 

 

Nextech’s partnership with CTC began in 2015. “We started by
training IPS high school teachers to bring computer science into the
classrooms, and that continues on,” said Karen Jung, president of Nextech.

 

However, the company saw an even bigger need to transform K-12
students from technology consumers to technology pioneers. This past summer,
Nextech launched Catapult, a yearlong intensive experience for rising juniors
and seniors interested in the tech field.

 

“A big part of our focus is really trying to help students
understand what computer tech jobs are, but we also want to prepare them to be
inside of the workplace,” said Jung. “We believe that every student in every school
in Indiana should have access and participate in computer science curriculum
because it helps to develop critical thinking/problem-solving skills and
familiarity with technology that every student needs to be successful,
regardless of the career they choose. But we know that born out of that will be
a certain number of students who want to explore this as a career and want to
start creating technology. And, for us, that’s where the high schools come in.”

 

While learning the skills needed to create technology and
meeting local leaders in the field, Jung said she and her Nextech team also
watched students blossom in personal ways over the summer.

 

“The biggest change we saw was their understanding of what
it really takes to have a career in technology — the skills that are necessary,
the different job types,” said Jung. “But we also saw some of the kids become
more comfortable with themselves. We watched kids learn about themselves. We watched
a kid who barely spoke at the beginning of the program, mature, grow and find
his voice. … That’s why I (we) do this.”

 

Damaris, who plans to attend IUPUI to major in business
administration with a minor in computer programming, said the experience she’s
having through the Catapult program has been invaluable.

 

“This program is very rewarding. Working side by side with
people at Nextech and meeting with several of the industry professionals opened
my eyes to what a job in the tech field would be,” said Damaris. “I always
thought it was kind of like working all day at a computer by yourself, but
going to local technology companies and seeing how they actually work showed me
that it’s a very open environment, where people collaborate and work together.”

 

Working at Lilly has helped Rayshaun expand his career
goals. “It’s opened my eyes wider to more things that I can do — sheet metal,
pipe-fitting, becoming a machinist … things besides just welding.”

 

He’s also fully aware that he wouldn’t have this opportunity
without the CTC internship program, which he believes more students should
utilize.

 

“It’s a good program to help kids get out there and
experience new things,” he said. “With this program, kids don’t just have a
mindset that they can only flip burgers for the rest of their lives. They can
go out and contribute and do something with their lives, something big in the
world.”

 

To learn more about Arsenal Technical High School and
the Career and Technology Center, visit the 2016 IPS Showcase of Schools on
Nov. 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Indiana State Museum. This one-stop, exciting
informational event features representatives from our 60-plus schools,
highlights our exciting and rigorous academic programs, and includes
performances by our talented students and informative panel discussions.