Why externs are the new interns

The Maryland Chamber Foundation supports sustainable solutions that drive Maryland’s future economy including: talent, education, innovation, economic diversity, infrastructure, business climate, governance and quality of life.


By Chloe Mazzone

Have you ever considered hiring an extern? You’re about to.

Teacher externships offer teachers the opportunity to connect their classroom to the workplace. Teachers gain firsthand experiences working in industries related to the subjects they teach and can apply that knowledge to enhance their curriculum and educate students on both hard and soft skills required to be successful when entering the workforce.

You may be asking yourself, what does an externship look like and how does it differ? Lois Hamaguchi from Hawaii’s Office of the State Director for Career and Technical Education explained, “They provide a deeper dive into what jobs will require for students and can help enrich lesson plans.”

Externships can take many different forms, most are summer long experiences. However, some can have an educator shadow a professional for just a few days. Longer externships can be more project-based and typically run a minimum of two weeks.

Hamaguchi said their Hawaii program began organically, “One business would have multiple teachers come in to shadow different parts of the company and learn skills and credentials important to the employer. But we wanted more.”

Through their externship model, teachers have the opportunity to dive into many disciplines. For example, a teacher in hospitality will be placed at a hotel or resort to learn the ins and outs of management on a day-to-day basis. A science teacher could be placed with an engineering firm to see how a project manager oversees engineers and what skills they utilize on a consistent basis. Or culinary teachers could be put to work for a restaurant group, helping to run a kitchen and learning everything from how to cook specific dishes to kitchen prep and managing the hustle of a busy restaurant.

Regardless of the role, externships help teachers tie real-world working experiences to their curriculum. With exposure to the skills it takes to succeed in a particular discipline, teachers can bring unique insights into their classroom that will benefit students preparing for their future in those specific areas. Businesses also have the opportunity to offer input for curriculum, thus supporting their future workforce.

Externships can benefit host businesses in other ways as well.  Program manager for the Iowa STEM Teacher Externship Program, Jason Lang said, “There is a multiplying effect of having a teacher at the worksite. In Iowa, there was a survey that found a teacher will reference their experience for four years after their externship ends—well over 500 kids will learn about your organization.”

He said teachers recommend students to the companies where they completed their externship, making these programs a great recruiting method. Lang continued, “Especially for manufacturing companies, they are doing this specifically for recruitment. This can be very beneficial, particularly in rural areas.”

Lang added, “This is not a college intern. You are getting a professional who already knows how to ask questions and keep the ball moving forward on projects.”

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