The message is strong and powerful when it comes from the likes of Lt. Governor Karen Polito, Representative Joe Kennedy III, and Jeffrey Leiden, CEO of Vertex Pharmaceuticals. In an opinion piece in The Boston Globe, the three spoke as one in addressing the overwhelming need for STEM internships in Massachusetts. According to the group, “More than 40 percent of the Commonwealth’s economy centers on jobs in STEM fields, including advanced manufacturing, information technology, and biotech.” But like many other states, Massachusetts has a problem. There is a disparity in the number of job openings and the number of eligible employees to fill them. It would seem simple and logical to increase the number of STEM classes statewide, but just one in six high school seniors expresses an interest in STEM.
So how do we get students over the STEM hump? We expose them to STEM careers outside the classroom. In their op-ed piece, the threesome says, “… we’re making a simple but powerful ask of Massachusetts businesses: Hire at least one high school student for a STEM internship.” A STEM internship can expose a high school student to a field they may never have considered. That’s precisely what happened to Glady Baez when she took part in an internship at Vertex, working with scientists researching cystic fibrosis and other diseases. Now, three years later, Baez is a biology major at UMass Boston, a choice she credits to her Vertex internship.
Hiring students for paid internships benefits the employer too. Companies can engage students within their workplaces, mentor them on site, and create the interest in STEM careers they seek to foster to narrow the skills gap. PSW implements the School to Career Connecting Activities program in four high schools: Marlborough, Bellingham, Framingham, and Norwood. The Career Specialists prepare students for internships by teaching soft skills, resume writing and interview skills. Just like the State, however, we need employers to get involved. It’s not too early to consider taking on an intern for summer 2017—we urge you to do so.
For more information on how you can create an internship at your company, contact Kelley French, Director PSW Youth Careers, at 508-281-2910 or email@example.com.