SIHS Spotlight (Part 3 of 3): Some Must-Dos for a Successful Internship Program

Milena Streen (VP & CIO – Librarian) and Robert Barr (Director of Technology) from Saint Ignatius High School, one of our member schools, are joining us for a 3-part series on how they set up a student internship program and what they’ve learned from it. View Part 1 and Part 2 of the series for more information.

We definitely recommend launching an internship program of your own! It’s been a huge benefit for both us and our students. We’ve learned a few things through trial and error over the past few years, and figured we’d share our musts with you to give you a leg up…

One “must do” for any school based program is hiring new interns in May, since 65% of the training is accomplished during the first summer. You’ll thank yourself when school begins in August, as interns’ knowledge is much greater and they are already able to repair or resolve problems quickly for our end users. We also like to hire college sophomores; that way, we’ll have an intern for at least two full years, but we’ve given the students a little bit of time to figure out their college paths and course requirements (freshman year might be too early to commit to an internship). Scheduling is another concern, since none of our interns can or should commit full time; in order to give us full-day coverage, we found we needed three interns. We allow them to work three days – one full and two half days – if their classes were scheduled during our school day. Keeping the schedule flexible is important, but overall, a full day of work added to better service completion and call continuity. One semester, Robert ended up coming in on Saturdays with an intern so that he was able to work his necessary hours. This arrangement actually helped us get more projects done, but wasn’t ideal because he wasn’t there during school hours dealing with the active network.

There is a bit of give and take trying to coordinate work hours around three differing class schedules, but the investment we make in training and mentoring pays off; the department and school reap benefits as interns interface with the user base, fix problems, train end users, troubleshoot issues, and run projects in real time. Outside of school hours, we found it was helpful to provide professional development options like online training subscriptions so the interns could access industry and vendor specific content for professional certifications studies on Cisco, Microsoft, and CompTia. 

Reflections from Joe Battaglia, Student Intern:

It is said that knowledge is fueled most by experience, and as a computer science student interning at St. Ignatius High School, I couldn’t find this truer. Whether it’s configuring Cisco switches, preparing workstations for lab use, or helping to create virtual servers, the time spent learning here is immeasurably valuable when it comes to real world experience. Coming from CS/programming classes which are primarily abstract in concept, being able to “get my hands dirty” working with VLANs, network printers, servers, etc gave very concrete examples of what the programs I write in class do in an actual enterprise-level environment. For example, this past semester I had an assignment which dealt with IP routing; through learning about this at St. Ignatius I was more easily able to understand the topic fully and in turn put this knowledge to use on the job. Working under St. Ignatius’ Director of Technology, Rob Barr, has been a treasure in itself. Learning new concepts from an amazingly smart and dedicated network engineer is something that no time in a classroom can truly replicate. In the end, I am very thankful to be a part of St. Ignatius’ IT intern program and cannot wait to take the knowledge and skills I have learned here to the next step in my career.

SIHS interns at work.