April 30, 2018
By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Rutherford County Schools
Nissan has been an invaluable partner for Rutherford County Schools.
For the past three years, they have hired five juniors from Rutherford County high schools as summer interns among the numerous ways in which they’ve shown their unyielding support of public education.
This summer, they have taken on seven summer interns.
In addition to mechatronics, supply chain management and purchasing, Nissan added interns in the systems engineering department and human resources.
“(Human resource representatives) were really overwhelmed with how prepared the students were and how tough of a decision it was to make,” said Trisha Murphy, director of education and workforce development for the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce.
The Rutherford Works High School Internship Program is a partnership with employers who offer students productive and meaningful work assignments with a learning component ideally related to their area of interest. Nissan is one 18 local Rutherford County companies participating in this summer’s program.
They were not only impressed with those who were chosen but also those who were passed.
In fact, the human resource department was not expecting to hear from any of the students who had been passed over in favor of a classmate. Instead one of them reached out via email to ask for “feedback on how to improve their interviewing skills.”
“They were pretty impressed the student reached out for that,” Murphy said. “That’s an amazing experience for them to hear from a Nissan HR professional on how they can do better in their next interview.”
That kind of impression stretches well beyond this summer’s internship program and could impact the student as a new hire candidate after graduation.
Next year, Murphy said the Chamber would like to provide more feedback for all interviewees.
There were 260 students who turned in cover letters, resumes and letters of recommendation and most of them applied for two jobs. The chamber accepted 10 applicants per job on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Reps from the 18 companies who offered a total of 45 internships then selected at three applicants to participate in the interview process. Some companies chose four and in some cases five applicants for interviews — making it extremely competitive.
There are many options for students, including the governor’s school, but according to Murphy, “parents and students are seeing that work experience is valuable.”
In the four years since the program started, it’s gone from filling 20 internship positions to more than double that figure as more schools begin “prioritizing the experience.”
Following last year’s summer program, 15 participating students changed their career choice, while 21 stayed the same and 14 remained undecided. According to the same survey, 74 percent of the interns would recommend the program to a junior this year and 70 percent of the employers involved planned to participate again, which wound up being a slightly higher percentage.
If the internship program helps 50 percent of the interns not to change their majors once they’ve started college, Murphy said $10,000 per year for each student would be saved.
“Switching majors usually has a two-year impact,” said Murphy, of its projected impact which would save $20,000 for 25 students for an estimated total of $500,000 in tuition and scholarships.
Given the growing success of the summer internship program, the chamber is now exploring opportunities to offer an online platform with “meaningful job” postings available to students in Rutherford County.
PHOTO / KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT