Answering phones and greeting customers are useful skills in nearly any industry.
Over the years, business owner Michele Wiley noticed that without previous experience, many people find working in a professional setting to be daunting. So this summer, she launched her first internship program with high school senior Ethan White.
“Not many understand how a business office works,” said Wiley, who owns Madrona Point Insurance in Eastsound. “It is transformational for someone who was nervous when they started to later walk out just owning that whole front office.”
Seventeen-year-old White was in charge of getting the business ready for customers in the morning, answering the phone, data entry, filing and greeting clients.
“I learned to deal with all sorts of people, and help them out, even when under pressurem,” White said. “I also became comfortable with software programs that I had previously not known how to use. Along with this, I learned to work with a great team, that works very well together.”
Wiley laid out clear goals for White on his first day and held beginning and exit interviews with him. She and her staff presented White with a certificate of completion on his last day. He also helped create an “intern manual” for the next person who comes on board.
“I watched this young man just open up,” Wiley said.
She initially hoped that White could earn high school credits for his time at Madrona Point, but she opted instead for a one-month, paid position. Wiley had to be approved by the state to hire a minor.
“I would definitely recommend this internship to others, as it teaches responsibility, and gives people a chance to see what working in an office is like, as well as get some real work experience, which can lead to jobs in the future,” White said.
While her first internship was with a student, Wiley is open to anyone interested in such an endeavor – particularly young moms.
“I want to hire people who have never worked in this industry as well as fill in the gap for students who are looking for experience in the office. I got so many people saying what a great opportunity and idea this is that I am hoping to do it again this winter and next summer,” she said.
Wiley’s goal is to provide islanders with an opportunity to beef up their resumes and gain workplace knowledge.
“I am willing to train people so they can walk in and be a better employee for someone else – or they can stay on and work for me,” she said.
Wiley would like to participate in the internship program offered by Orcas School High School’s Career and Technical Education department. CTE provides classes each semester to interested students as well as work-based learning through local businesses. The work must be nonpaid and pertain to a class the student is currently taking.
“The internships need to flow out of work being done in the classroom,” said Principal Kyle Freeman.
A business owner interested in setting up an internship sits down with the student and teacher Brett McFarland to outline goals, expectations and objectives for the partnership.
Current CTE classes include: personal and business finance, woodworking, culinary arts, yearbook and publishing, computer programming and guitar building. Washington state requires all students take at least one credit of a CTE class in order to graduate.
Over the past few years, students built a fully functional tiny house and umiak boat. The projects are collaborations between school district staff and community members. You don’t need a bachelor’s degree or teaching certificate to become a vocational instructor in Washington state. Those interested must meet a variety of requirements, including having 6,000 hours of occupational experience and completing a training course. For information about providing an internship or becoming a certified vocational instructor, contact math teacher and CTE administrator Ryan Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vocational education received a financial boost with the federal bill “Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act,” which went into effect on July 1, 2018. Each state distributes the funds based on specific guidelines. Orcas Island School District is in the process of improving its CTE curriculum and seeking advice from community leaders and businesspeople to keep the program relevant and eligible for more funding. OISD’s goal with offering career and technical education is to expose and prepare students for a variety of professional pathways.
“It also helps students discover new passions,” said Kennedy.