Ask anyone what they learned in a book versus what they learned when they became part of the workforce and you'll likely get some great stories in return. The fact is, no amount of prep or reading prepares you for working in the "real world"- with real people, on real projects, with real deadlines, for real money.
Earlier this summer, Promotional Partners' team member, Angela Schulze, lead a team of student interns from two local WCPSS career academies to share a fresh perspective on the value of these career academies. There are 20 career academies throughout Wake County and Promotional Partner's own full circle story, inspired this story below.
What Can The Academy Do For You?
The “Peak of Good Living” slogan encompasses more than purely living; it is a promise of flourishing growth and continuous education.
It’s only fitting that The Peak has two career academies that focus on preparing students for the workforce through an enhanced curriculum by developing and sharpening student skillsets. Apex Friendship High School’s Academy of Engineering (AoE) prepares its students by teaching the engineering design process to solve problems, a skill that can be taken with them as they enter the workforce and are presented with real-world obstacles. Apex High School’s Academy of Information Technology (AoIT) program leans toward teaching technical skills to students to set them apart in the workplace and propel them forward with the mindset of regularly improving their skills.
While both programs have similar missions, each career academy is unique with specialized values to better prepare its cohorts for the working world. This summer, two current academy interns and one former academy intern worked together to blend their respective experiences to show how the versatile courses and values of a career academy are beneficial to a variety of students.
Meet the students: Connor Schuh, a current AoIT intern at Promotional Partners Inc., Etalia Plesh, a current AoE intern at Positively Apex, and former AoIT intern & team member at Promotional Partners Inc., Angela Schulze. They collaborated about their educational journeys and how this summer’s experience will be beneficial in their professional journey. Schulze points out, “Systemic desensitization works, because the networking workshops and mock interviews helped me get through my nervousness of talking to adults in a higher position than me, so I could become more confident and be the charismatic person I am today.” Schuh, who plans to pursue an engineering career, favors working on projects that are hands-on and straightforward. His coursework and internship experiences have been pushing him to be succinct in his writing and to shine a spotlight on himself within seven seconds. It seems that any suggestion of a teambuilding activity is met with a grimace but being in AoIT showed Schulze that once you get past feeling cliché, teambuilding can be fun and carefree. Some of her favorite memories from being in the Academy are from the field trips, when the cohort wasn’t paying attention to friend groups or teenage angst; it was all smiles and laughter. Conversely, Plesh hasn’t been able to participate in many of the teambuilding field trips due to the coronavirus pandemic, so she hasn’t been able to experience the memories created from these excursions. However, Plesh did say that she appreciates that the AoE has taught her how to use the decision matrix to come up with solutions to problems.
An essential aspect of these academies is to apply a student’s skills in an internship with a local company to gain insight into the professional world with a student’s own eyes. Local businesses benefit from these symbiotic relationships – the employer gets to mentor an aspiring professional and learn the perspective of a younger demographic, and the student gets to be mentored by a seasoned professional. Such experiences are valuable to students because it forces interns to apply what they’ve learned in the academy to real-world circumstances.
Without partnerships with local businesses, career academies would struggle to prove that their missions are successful. Internships provide businesses the chance to be recognized within the community for giving back, and for investing energy and resources into future professionals. Academy Director Diane Cadavid of Apex Friendship High School said, “The local business community plays an active role in helping to develop the college and career readiness skills of our students enrolled in the Academy. Our advisory board members serve as mentors, meeting with students on a monthly basis in preparation for their internship experience. In addition, they help judge student presentations, assist with work-based learning experiences, and guide us on curriculum decisions.” Director of AoIT Teia Robinson agrees, succinctly saying, “The support of the local business community is vital to the success of AoIT and more importantly the individual students. Through job shadows and internships our students enter the Apex career pipeline, gaining transferable and technical skills.” In addition to mentoring, students receive the opportunity to grow their network as they graduate and move cities.
This strong, unifying factor of collaboration between academies, students, and participating businesses helps all parties gain valuable perspectives while encouraging professional growth to uphold the title of “The Peak of Good Living.”
Article Authors for local Greet Friendship Magazine:
Angela Schulze - Promotional Partners
Connor Schuh - Apex High student; AoIT Academy - Promotional Partner's Intern
Etalia Plesh - Apex Friendship High student, AoE Academy - Greet Friendship Magazine Intern
As a business with 2 former AoIT interns as valued teammates - we tend to agree that Academies Make Careers!