Summer employment on the rise in Polk County
On the other side Polk Countycollege-aged students gain summer employment experience while doing good for their community.
Before attending Stetson University in the fall, nursing student Alexia Witherspoon will gain experience as a teacher’s aide while earning money through a program offered by CareerSource Polk.
The 18-year-old from Lake Wales works with primary school pupils who have fallen behind in school and need to catch up on reading and math skills lost during the pandemic. She works Monday through Thursday at the B Street Community Service Center for the Green and Gold Foundation, Inc.
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Witherspoon is also learning about life.
As her fourth and fifth graders reviewed nouns and verbs on Wednesday, she learned how different it is to help other people’s children compared to her younger cousins at home.
“Some of them opened my eyes a bit and I learned to have more patience than usual with children,” she said of her students who rewarded her patience with their respect for her.
Nationally, internships for high school and college students help graduates land their first job, according to Zippia.com. In fact, many companies require internships.
Zippia research estimates that there are 300,000 people who intern each year in the United States, 70% of whom land a position with the company that hosted the internship. Some internships can be paid at 60.8% or unpaid at 39.2% of internships.
They are also 15% less likely to be unemployed and 6% earn more than non-interns, Zippia said. On average in the United States, interns are paid $20.76 per hour.
Trainee Shelby Reeves, 20, from Lake Wales, attended Frostproof Middle-Senior High School and said she learned communication skills working with pupils.
“With the kids, I have to go to the board and talk to them and tell them ABCs and stuff like that,” she said. Overall, the program is all about “having fun with kids and helping them learn.”
Their supervisor and program director, Kayreen Neely of Green and Gold, is thrilled with the interns helping summer program teachers add an academic component to arts and recreation activities this summer, she said.
“They help and assist in class,” Neely said. “Teachers target reading and math so those who are struggling work with them one-on-one.”
The nine-week summer internship through CareerSource Polk runs until August 5 and offers students $15 per hour for up to 30 hours per week. Learning modules can also be completed as an incentive to earn up to an additional $1,600. Classes include topics on personal finance, resume writing, and mental health.
Beyond education, there are more than 200 positions through CareerSource Polk programs, such as internships in hospitality, retail, information technology, government, and warehousing.
CareerSource Polk offers other paid work experience programs for young adults ages 16-24 who are high school or college students.
The program has eligibility criteria that include household income, according to Candace Franklin, director of outreach and communications.
“CareerSource Polk’s Young Leaders Program is committed to helping young adults in Polk County overcome barriers to education and employment,” she said. “These barriers include young adults who may lack basic skills, the homeless, in foster care, an English language learner as well as a pregnant or currently parenting young adult.”
Paul Nutcher covers business and industry for The Ledger. He can be contacted at [email protected]