The Rubber Meets the Road in the Internship Process

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The Rubber Meets the Road in the Internship Process

May 21, 2015
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>> SUSIE RUTKOWSKI: Hi, thanks for joining us. We're going to talk about internships. That's where the students spend the most time. I'm Susie, the Co-Director of Project SEARCH. I want to recognize the Mitsubishi Foundation. Two years ago, they gave us funding. We looked at the 40 sites that were getting the most employment outcomes. Those sites that are getting 90 and 100% employment outcomes to figure out what techniques are they using that we can share with other Project SEARCH sites everywhere so that everybody gets great information and helps their students get good, competitive employment outcomes.

So, thank you to Mitsubishi. So, what we learned from those 40 teams    we call them our high achieving sites or our HAS teams, we found that on average, they had at least 18 internship sites. And one of them had 45 internship sites. Now, I don't want you to be too worried that you might not have 45. But you might get there. And you want to have, probably more internship sites than you have students. You always want to have a few in reserve that you might need.

But even more important than the number of internship sites is what they do at those internship sites. Our high achieving sites said that at the internships, they layered on skills and made sure the training led to employment. The students are learning skills necessary to get jobs. The only way you can do that is have your host business help you with that information. So, that's an important thing to remember.

That also helps us in compliance with wage and hour, and that's also important. Internships are the cornerstone of Project SEARCH. It is what makes us different, the facts that students are, on average, on those internships five hours every day of the week. That they are spending 25 hours a week as those internships, and that they're embedded and immersed in the work.

This    I love this picture, because you probably don't know what this young lady is doing. Some people think she's in a show store. But, this is actually at a bank. And she is finding    she has to find tapes, or microfiche from a certain day that is being requested of her to find a transaction. She's looking through all those boxes to find a specific piece of film containing a specific transaction that she will put in a machine, find the transaction, print it off, and give it to someone. And maybe even scan it and send it to someone who needs that information.

And she's doing that for personal requests that might be a customer that's being audited. So, this is not just physical. It's also got some technology and lots of detail to this internship. So this is a competitive, and it's a marketable skill. And that's really, really important. It's also important that internships contain not just work skills, but social skills. We all know that on a day to day basis, we interact with people.

And our young interns are interacting with coworkers, managers, and with people, and many times customers. And they need to learn how to interact in an appropriate way. And that's sometimes difficult for our young people that have different kinds of disabilities who might have autism or Down syndrome, or other things.

Typically an internship is about ten weeks long. There's certainly flexibility in that. We want our interns to have a variety of internship experience throughout the year. Most Project SEARCH programs have three different programs. And last but not least, students need feedback. They need to be assessed and evaluated on how they're gaining skills, how they're working through skills, how they're building productivity, safety, and quality.

This graph represents the fact that we want our students to gain as many skills as possible, just as you or I would on our journey of gaining skills in our jobs. So, it's a young person    anybody in a job, they need to have a certain package of skills to be able to be successful in that job. We want our Project SEARCH interns to do the same. But first of all, we have to believe that they can get there. We have to have the core belief that students can reach the same destination as a typical young learner, or that their journey might be different.

It make take them longer, or job accommodations. It might take them a variety of strategies of teaching techniques to get there, but they can get there. The internships are an opportunity to learn complex skills. Our internships shouldn't typically be easy. We want to stretch people's imaginations and comfort levels. Even our students, we need to stretch their comfort levels. We want to create those complex skills that students can use and learn at an eventual, competitive, community job.

In doing that, we have to educate our host business staff. And that might take on a variety of ways. First of all, they just need awareness. Awareness that Project SEARCH is in their organization and that students with disabilities are going to be there as interns, learning marketable, competitive skills. Everybody needs to know that, whether they're hosting an intern or not. That takes internal marketing, maybe through the website, lunch and learns. It might be through some organizational presentations to leadership, to middle managers. But you're going to have to conduct some information sessions with your staff.

You need to highlight those new interns as a recruitment stream not the just for the organization, but for the community. Managers and coworkers need to know that these students are going to be held to the same light that any other new young worker would be. They might need some sensitivity training to disability, disability awareness, and then before every internship and rotation, the managers and coworkers will want to know about the young person and the challenges and the skills and abilities that they are bringing to that particular department.

And lastly, make sure that your managers and supervisors have some training strategies, have some information that they can use. Because the teacher and job coach won't be there all the time. They need to know how to manage expectations and the young person and get the most out of them as a young worker, an intern, and a young person that's learning new skills.

The job coaches and your instructor wear double hats. On one hand, they are coaching the interns. And they are helping them to learn skills. On the other hand they're working with the employers. So, you have to think to yourself, as a job coach, as an instructor, what does the intern need from me in order to learn skills, and what does the manager, and what do the departments need from me in order to help that young person thrive and learn in their environment?

So, job coaches and instructors have a dual role all the time. One of the first things that we have to do is figure out, what do those departments look like? What are they teaching? What are the skills that the student's going to be learning? What happens in those departments on a day to day basis? And we call those department profiles. One of the first things we have to find out is, what are the core tasks of that department? Who plays those support roles? And how can our young people learn those core tasks and play those support roles?

What are the availability of mentors and support, and supervision for the young person, for the Project SEARCH intern? Can we identify one mentor, two mentors? Who can help give them the guidance that they need as they learn their skills? What's the social environment of the department? Is it happy? Is it very serious? Is it pretty flexible? What's that going to look like, and how do we introduce our young person to that environment? This one I think sometimes we overlook, but this is really important, because it starts to think about productivity and quality.

What's the level of accuracy needed? Is there any tolerance for errors? And how can we build that accuracy throughout the ten weeks of the internship? Is the department structured, unstructured, is it chaotic, stressful, lots of people, few people, fluctuation in the workload that might impact the student's ability to have enough work, five hours a week, five days a week?

Those are all the things we need to think about as we interview a department that's interested in hosting an internship for a Project SEARCH student. When we talk about production, quality, and accuracy is, here's a great example. This is a young person who had an internship at Fifth Third bank in Cincinnati. And the typical worker in that job has to file 300 files a day with 98% accuracy. That's the quota for everyone, every new file clerk in that department.

Now, we took some baseline information on our worker, and we knew that by the end of the ten weeks, she has to be able to do that if she's ever going to be considered for hire at that organization or in another institution. So, how can we do that? In this case, technology was on our side. You might be able to see in the picture, Kristen is holding a hand scanner. That scanner scans the blue jackets. That scans every document that she files. And she can see the scanner at the end of her work day to measure her files scanned, and her accuracy of, is she getting the files in the right places.

You might not have that opportunity for technology, but you've got to find some way to measure the productivity and the accuracy against the expectations of the department to see if your young people are going to be able to measure up by the end of the internship and gain the competitive skills that they need to be employed.

As you're looking at internship opportunities, you want to look for actual problems. Are there some departments that have had complaints about work not getting done? That might be a place where you could build an internship. Are there backlogs or long lead times for certain departments? Again, that might be an opportunity for work, for skill building, for your young person. Are there critical tasks that need to be done that the students could learn?

Is there high turnover in an area? Are there key staff being pulled away from those core tasks? These are opportunities for you. You may have heard this story. This Project SEARCH story. These are probes, the picture of these little probes that go on the finger of every patient at most hospitals. These can be recycled three times. Our hospital was not recycling them. We used this as an opportunity to learn a variety of skills in the internship, including getting these ready to be sent back to the department or to an organization that recycles them and sells them back to our organization.

So, this created not just an opportunity for an internship, but an eventual job for a young person. We have to build relationships with managers and coworkers at every single internship we have. Whether you have ten internships or 45 internships, you have to know the managers know the coworkers, and you have to follow the host site culture.

Things like orientation, behavior expectations, attendance. Is customer service important? Many organizations are looking for opportunities to give back, and teaching the interns that same thing. So, how can you do that in an internship? One simple way, many departments on Fridays, they have an opportunity for students to wear jeans, but you have to pay a dollar to a local charity.

Can your interns be part of that opportunity? You have to respect the need for flexibility if that's part of the internship department, or not. Many departments have a particular protocol they have to follow, because they might be a healthcare or finance organization. And there isn't much flexibility. And if so, then our interns have to comply with that. And you have to also allow the opportunity to miss the interns. And that's one of the reasons why you want more internship opportunities than you have students.

Once they figure out that the intern's contributions aren't going to be there on a day to day basis when that internship ends, that might be an opportunity for an employment opportunity or for a hire for that intern. So, here's one of the Project SEARCH sites in Virginia. And they said, this is one of the ways that they match interns to internships.

A representative from each department, meaning the department at the hospital, presents the students at the beginning of the year. Students write down their top four choices and why they think they should go to that department. The teacher meets with each student to discuss their choices, and the teacher and the job coach meet and make tentative placements, then meet with the business liaison to review those tentative placements, and make suggestions for internships. The business liaison gets the final okay for every placement.

That's a really important thing to remember. You are guests at the host business. The host business often gets the final word on internships and other things that might happen at the host business. Everything needs to run through that host business liaison, because, again, we're guests in their business.

At Bon Secours in Virginia, another team that consistently gets 100% employment, the job searchers meet with the students over the summer and fill out customer intake notebooks, which gives you a general introduction to the students' preferences, work they've done in the past, paths they're interested in learning. So, this is really important. This also makes you know that your staff are going to have to put in some staff time this summer before the program begins in order to help this to happen.

In the first couple of weeks, the orientation time, the teachers complete interest inventories, locational profiles, etc., so they can find out more about the students' likes, dislikes, skills, aptitudes, etc. They meet every single week to discuss their preferences and what is the best fit in that organization.

Again, these are two ways that our HAS teams are looking at ways to match interns to internships. You also have to think about how can your intern add value to the organization. How can they improve the process of what's already happening? Is there a way to make that product faster? Is there a way to make the product cheaper, are there ways to increase the number of customers served? Value is a lean term, part of the continues improvement movement, and we want to think like our organizations think.

So, how can our young interns add value? And once departments see the value of the young people, they're going to be more excited about their contributions and more excited about having them as an intern, and then hopefully an employee. I apologize, there's lots of text on this page. But let's think about what are the steps that our HAS teams told us for developing high quality internships?

First, you want to connect with those managers to get them to say yes. Get them to say yes, I'm interested in hosting a Project SEARCH intern. Typically, that comes from a referral, from the business liaison, or from leadership in your host business. And then you're going to look at asking that manager to complete some kind of an internship skills training, kind of what happens in your department as a first step. What are the skills that entry level workers in this department are doing?

Then, can I come and visit? Can the teacher, the job coach, can we come and observe the work at your department? Can we look at what's happening and can we ask questions, and look at the standard work. Standard work is another lean tool that talks about what's the work that's being done, and how. What's the process that the work goes through in the most efficient way to get done in a certain department.

You also want to think about when you create that task list, or that standard work, what are my most basic task, and how can I layer tasks during those ten weeks so students learn more and more complex tasks. That's the time you want to start thinking about accommodations, error proofing, work aids to help the student be the most successful he can be, whether that's through social things or work things.

Always plan for additional work. Sometimes our host businesses aren't used to the productivity that our young people have. So, make sure you plan for more work so that you don't run out of work and skills for the young interns. Your manager and the coworkers need to review the task list that you've created, and at the beginning of each internship, review those lists with manager and mentors to make changes as needed, especially if they're using that internship over and over.

As new interns come and the work changes, the standard work or task list will also need to change. Let's think about a job in a hospital as a transporter. We had many young people get a job as a transporter because it's a physical job. It involves way finding, it involves communication. It involves some technology. So, it's been a really great skill building opportunity, and also a great outcome as employment for the students. But when I think about a typical transporter in a hospital, they're probably hired and have to learn their job within a probationary period that might be 30 days, might be 60 days.

Our young people, maybe can't learn all those skills in 60 or 90 days, but could learn it over several internships. And we might spread out those internships in different departments. So, for instance, a first internship could just be learning the skills needed to clean and retrieve stretchers, organize those stretchers, and maintain an area where those stretchers    when I say stretchers, beds, gurneys, wheelchairs    are kept.

A second internship may involve other skills needed to become a patient transporter. Changing oxygen tanks out. Maintain waiting areas. A third internship, delivering X Rays, and finally, transporting patients, which is what a patient transporter does. It may take several internships to build the skills necessary to finally get to the point where I could have all the skills, have a resume of skills, that I could be a patient transporter and apply for and get that job.

Here's another way to think about building internships, especially for students that don't know exactly what they want to do, and that you have a good variety of opportunities in your community for work. So, your job coaches, your job developers, and instructors, need to go out to the community and meet with businesses to say, "What kind of jobs do you have that come open frequently? What kind of skills do those young people and those new employees need to have?" So places like distributions centers, retail, healthcare, finance.

What are they telling you that young workers need to have? Because all your students aren't going to get jobs at the host site. They're going to get jobs out in the community, so you need to be very cognizant of what are the skills necessary in the community. And then, how do I bring those to the internships. For instance, if a distribution center is telling you they have to learn how to face shelves and stock, and fill orders, I can teach those skills. I can set up those skills in an internship, maybe in stocking, maybe in central supply, that then would translate back out to the community, as you can see at the end of the internship.

At the end of the year, back out to the distribution center, back out to a retail, back out to another hospital, back out to a bank, for instance. So, on the front end I need to know about my community and then build those skills into internships so that students can go back out to the community and learn those skills, practice those skills, do those skills in a job.

Here's a young person. I want to give this example of a young person that knew what she wanted to do, and then we had to build skills and internships around the skills necessary for her to gain the job that she wanted. This young lady's name is Sara. She also works at Fifth Third. And she was one of the first students to go through the program there. And she wanted to be an administrative assistant, a clerical person. We talked to our host business about, what skills does Sara need in order to get that job?

We knew she would need computer skills, receptionist skills, she would need really good communication skills in order to be successful at the bank. The very first rotation, we focused on phone and communication skills. We put her in a vice president's office where she was going to interact with leadership from the bank, and leaders from the community coming in where she had good support from that department that she could learn those really great communication skills.

Sometimes we even had our own staff calling to help her get practice in taking messages, talking on the phone, doing emails. Her second rotation, we focused on computer skills. In many ways, it didn't matter what internship area we had, as long as she could practice communication skills on the computer. She really focused on Word and Excel. And those were the two areas the bank said they needed her to have the most skills in.

And then our third internship, she was the receptionist in the public lobby at Fifth Third. And she was able to marry the communication and the computer skills that she learned in internship one and two. She had to work a switchboard, make appointments for people, call people within the organization to say that their appointments were there. She had to problem solve with people if they didn't know where they were meeting, or the persons they were meeting with. She had to use communication and computer skills, and new technology skills with the switchboard in order to be successful.

She did so well the bank hired her into that position, and now, several years later, she's had a promotion. She works as a receptionist in the HR department booking all the interviews for new employees, potential employees, as well as booking interviews for people that have to meet with HR for a variety of reasons. And she does special projects, as well. So, think about, how can I put together a package of internships that's going to lead to the kind of skills that will lead to employment.

This is another way to think about this. So, in this grid, our business liaison looked at all the departments on the left side of this table. So, these are simply departments at the bank. And they are telling us where the entry level positions are. Those pay grades two, three, and four where openings will occur that have the skills that our interns can learn during the year. We found out that there's over 1400 positions that have the skills that our students could learn during the year at Project SEARCH.

Where are those skills being taught? We went back to those departments that have the most opportunities to learn those skills. So if you look at the line that says mail, about three quarters of the way down, if you look at the department that says COMM, communication, look at all the opportunities there are to learn those entry level skills, as well as FTTS. That's where we're going to ask the departments to host interns, because we know that they'll learn the entry level skills necessary to build a resume of skills that they could be hired, not just at the bank that's hosting them, but at other organizations within the community.

So, you need to be strategic about where your internships are going to be so that they can learn those core skills, those basic skills necessary to build a resume to get those competitive jobs. Here's some sample core skills. This makes sense for a bank. This makes sense for a finance organization. It would be data entry, filing, imaging, etc. Now we just have to make sure that we have internship areas where they can learn those skills and learn them to their productivity, safety quality levels necessary to get the jobs that they want.

As our job coaches and our instructors are preparing to teach our young people, as they're standardizing the work, we have to think about what is the best method consistent among all workers so that our students learn typical ways to work, and that we might have to come up with checklists, and then job accommodations so that students learn the best way to do the work, and that they can be typically integrated into the departments, and then we'll go from there making the job accommodations and work aids that we need to meet the needs of the young people that have a variety of disabilities and a variety of challenges.

When we think about standard work, when we think about the task lists that go into creating a good internship, we have to establish a standard that includes a repeatable process, as well as that productivity level, those quality levels, those safety levels. Those all have to be worked into those task lists. Again, we might be taking baseline data at the beginning of the internships and trying to improve that over time so that they can come up to standard, come up to meet the levels of expectation of the managers, of the coworkers, of the departments.

Standard work can't just be the job coach and the instructor. We have to get the information from the managers. We have to be able to interview them and get the information from not just the leadership of the departments, but the people that are actually doing the work, the coworkers, the mentors that are doing those jobs. That has to be built into as we look at designing that standard work, that task list for the young person.

And then we have to look to eliminate random activities. And, again, look at making those inconsistent methods consistent. And finding that best way that the student can do that work. Pulling information from the host business, and what we know best about supporting employment and job accommodations, and putting all that together for the best way for the student to learn to do those skills, and to create a way for him to learn the skills and hopefully get employed, either within the host business, or somewhere in the community.

Again, we're going to develop a routine work method, and establish expectations for productivity, quality, and safety. We keep talking about those, but that's important. We don't want our businesses to hire students because they feel sorry, or they feel philanthropic. We want people to hire our students because they have a good skill level that's going to match the needs of that organization.

So, once we have expectation for productivity, quality, safety for every skill, we want to record those. We want to create a checklist for our students, whether that's a visual checklist, a text checklist, an electronic checklist, whatever works with that student's learning style. Something that we can use to evaluate their performance. We have to talk to the department about important aspects of their work and future trends.

Are things going to change in the near future? Are things going to change over time? Are things even going to change in the ten weeks that we're there are, and how will we work with that change. Again, we have to look for transferable, marketable skills, because all of our students won't find work in that department. What kind of    what are the most important skills that will be transferable within that organization, and within their community?

And then look at support roles. Look at entry level job descriptions to enhance that skill building and that resume building opportunity for the young people. Another lean tool is calling standing in the circle. And what that is, is simply thoughtful, intense observation. You're    our job coaches and instructors always need to be standing in the circle, looking at workers doing work, finding ways to make our young people as valuable, as skillful, as possible so that they are attractive to our business as young workers and that they are a talent stream, and they bring gifts to the table so that people will want to hire them for the skills and talents that they have.

So, as we're building internships, always keep that desired outcome in mind of employment. Keep your eye on the prize of that young person getting a job, again, either in the host business or somewhere in the community. Be strategic. Make sure that a variety of their internships teach those same skills so that they can practice it over and over again. Focus on essential tasks and value adding activities, not busy work or things that won't add value.

Don't be doing volunteer activities, making sure that your host business knows that these young people are there as interns, as young people that are learning skills to get jobs. Because if they know and realize that the end goal is employment, they'll think about structuring those internships to help you get to your goal. A training matrix is another great tool to stay focused on the four skills, and there are some tools that you can use in the Project SEARCH resource guide to help you look at those core skills.

And a training matrix is one way to chart that activity and make sure that everybody, not just the teacher and the job coach, but the managers and the young people, as well as the coworkers stay focused on how that young person is progressing on those skills. It can be a transparent tool for evaluation, assessment, and growth.

Here's a really easy example of a training matrix, but there's more examples in the Project SEARCH resource guide. This is another way to take information. Our job coaches, our instructors, and sometimes the coworkers are going to help you look at ways to design tasks and track progress. So, again, this is a lot of text, but this is a task list for a young person who's working in a family resource center. And they're using a very simple plus or minus way to track information.

And you can see pretty quickly that the student is gaining skills. But you can also see pretty quickly that there's a few areas where they're struggling. And so we're going to ask that job coach, and that instructor, as well as the coworkers to try to strategize, how can I teach that young person even those areas where they're struggling? I can focus my attention and ask the coworkers to also focus their attention on those areas that might be struggling for the young person.

Do they need more time? Do they need more exposure? Do we need a different way to teach it? Do we need a different environment to teach it? Where can we focus our work and our effort to make sure that they learn all the tasks, not just the ones they're good at, but all the tasks that are necessary to be successful in that area. So there's a lot of different ways to take good data collection and evaluation. You need to find the one that works for you with that task design and with that standard work.

As we noted just before, not just are you taking data on specific tasks, but you're going to overall evaluate your students during the internships. So, during that ten weeks you want to continually take good information and evaluation. You need a common feedback instrument that everybody's going to use, the job coach, the instructor, and even the coworkers can give you good information if we have a common evaluation tool. I'm going to skip to that next slide so that you can see. Here's one way to keep that information.

But, you as an instructor, a job coach, a coworker, a business liaison, should adapt the tool to fit the needs of your organize. You need input from multiple sources, not just the job coach, not just the instructor, from everyone. Even the young person themselves should learn to self evaluate their own progress and skills. So here we're saying multiple sources. Job coach, instructor, peer mentors. Complete it often, share it with the team, and use it to guide the employment planning process.

That means guiding your next set of internships, your eventual job seeking process. This particular tool is in the resource guide. It was developed by a Project SEARCH teacher, but we want you to customize it to meet the needs of your situation, your student, your department. This particular tool has four sections. It has skills in social behavior, communication, appearance, job performance, and then a plan of action. So that doesn't mean that you need to keep the items in these areas. You can customize the items in each of these areas, because we know from talking to HR folks and managers that these are the areas that most jobs have tasks within them, social, communication, appearance, and job skills.

You can use these evaluations to update your teams at your employment planning meetings, to update funders, to update parents, to update families, and other team members. So the key is finding some kind of an evaluation tool that works for everyone. And lastly, review and revise. Always get information from everyone. Get information from your host business liaison. Get information from your managers and your coworkers. Get information from your partners.

One way to do this is a plus delta. A plus delta is an easy, quick tool to use that keeps things positive. So, on the plus side, on that left hand category, you're asking people what went well. What's working here in this internship, or on these skills? And then on the delta side, what do we need to change to make it better? How can we continuously improve this internship or this evaluation process? What else do we need to add to make our students more successful? What other internships do we need to add to add more skill building?

So, continually review and revise not just the internships that you have, but the process that you're using to evaluate the students so that internships are robust and so that interns are learning the skills that they need to gain employment. All right. Thank you so much for joining us today to learn a little bit more about internship development and internships. And thanks for tuning in. And have a great day.
(End of Session)

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