How local young adults are getting new kinds of work experience

Slowly, Camryn Sparschu removed a few vials of samples from a tube sent to McLaren Port Huron’s basement lab early Tuesday, shifting her attention to a computer screen.

The 18-year-old was not due for the appointment later in the day, but she put on a white lab coat to show how the information is wired ahead of the test.

A recent graduate of Port Huron Northern, she is one of 11 high school students who completed an on-site internship at the hospital during her final semester – and one of three hired at the end of the program – in the part of the Biomedical STEAM Project Lead the Way program.

Now, Sparschu said she’s gaining additional work experience before heading to Michigan State University to study biochemistry in the fall. So far, she said the internship has been a big help.

“They showed me all the tricks of the trade. It took a bit of getting used to, of course, but it was so cool to have a real experience and to know that real people were coming to the hospital,” she said. “We were looking at everything to help them, to figure out what was best for them within the medical standards to follow. I just thought it was so interesting in this direct experience.

This is a program to help expand learning and career options for students at Port Huron’s two secondary schools.

District spokeswoman Keely Baribeau said its expansion is expected to include 15 students at McLaren and one at manufacturer PJ Wallbank Springs this fall.

But while work experience programs for older teens and high school students aren’t entirely new to St. Clair County, expanding options may also meet a growing need in the community.

Dan Casey, CEO of the St. Clair County Economic Development Alliance, said some companies have become more aggressive in hiring young workers because “the labor market has become so tight” as a way to “help them to guide them towards long-term options. careers.”

Outside of hospitals, an example was manufacturers like Magna Electric Vehicle Structures, where Casey said, “It’s a core philosophy of their hiring practice.”

“They have many students they work with who are on internship or who work at the factory with the idea that they will continue to work there,” he said.

At McLaren, Diann Ceglarek, a medical technologist who works with Sparschu, said an initial apprehension about high school students in the lab this spring was quickly overridden by student input, calling them “an important part of our team”. .

“When they first told me they were going to bring in high school kids, I thought, ‘Are they going to be responsible enough to handle tagging people’s specimens and all that sort of thing?’ And I was a little worried, but the two we had were wonderful,” Ceglarek said. “They are very precise and (have) great attention to duty.

“…And I’m so happy that (Sparschu) can come back this summer. We are so understaffed. It’s really helpful.

Northern graduate calls hospital experience ‘so inspiring’

Baribeau said Port Huron High and Port Huron Northern students who are interested in the program can contact their counselors.

That’s how Sparschu said she got involved, after being approached nearing her final semester of senior year.

“She usually looked for people who were in heavier science classes or people interested in biology fields or science careers,” she said of her adviser. “And honestly, the fact that I work in a hospital environment is what kind of drew me to the program.”

Overall, Sparschu called it an “eye-opening” experience. It involved a lot of work in the office, she said, taking calls and filing, in addition to “helping move things around”.

As an intern, she said she made $15 an hour. And the concept of working in a hospital, she said, caught the attention of her friends — it’s unusual for their age.

With the experience under her belt, she said she thinks she can consider other hospital positions or different areas of research study in the future.

“Some people have been at it for over 30 years,” Sparschu added, “and it’s really inspiring that these people chose a career they loved in medicine and helped in biochemistry, in particular.”

Choosing a career path at a young age

Hiring students and young professionals is on employers’ radar in a variety of ways, according to local business leaders.

Thelma Castillo, president of the Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce, referenced McLaren when asked, as well as nurses coming out of St. Clair County Community College and going to local hospitals in general . She also pointed to waiting lists in vocational education programs at the St. Clair County Regional Education Services Agency.

“I think overall it’s so difficult to engage students,” she said. “I know a few of them tried to get a job and they don’t have enough experience, got turned down and got discouraged.”

At RESA, Superintendent Kevin Miller said the agency has continued to bring back these kinds of programs over the past few years through its TEC center.

The challenge has become getting creative with expanding programs as they run out of space, Miller said. He cited multiple certifications or programs — whether in health care, early childhood education and care, or construction trades — welcoming more participants by keeping a large number of first-year students. to learn on the spot and by sending second-year students on internships.

They start with 24, he said, increasing to open 48 locations, then 96.

“The next program that had a long waiting list is Digital Media,” Miller said.

“So we worked on certain relationships with professional experience and radio and television. Maybe organizations that do video shooting, editing, commercials, things like that,” he said. “…Our plan this fall is to offer a number of experiences for students who were in first year this year to have a workplace experience in second year. It won’t be the full 48 in the first year because it takes a few years.

Despite the success of many programs that integrate students or young adults, Casey said it doesn’t always work for individual employers. Investing in training a young professional, he said, can give them the experience they can use to leverage another employer for higher salaries.

Still, Casey said it’s important for the region to have a variety of opportunities and increasingly to be successful, which may mean choosing a path when it’s young.

“We want everyone to take the right path so they can do what they want to do, what they are passionate about, what interests them, what they are good at,” he said. “Sometimes that means students are making a different decision today than they would have in the past.

“Cybersecurity, coding, you don’t need a degree to do that. These people can succeed in this career by simply obtaining technical certificates. Then there are other people who need higher degrees or clinical work to be successful in their careers. So the key for me is that young people have to figure out what they want to do.

Contact Jackie Smith at (810) 989-6270 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @Jackie20Smith.

Maria D. Ervin