Innovative Durham program ties kids to high-tech careers - WNCN: News, Weather

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Innovative Durham program ties kids to high-tech careers

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DURHAM, N.C. -

The kids had to give up the pool, video games and free time this week as they headed back to school.

But some students spent the summer preparing themselves, and local businesses, for the future.

Seth Close spent his summer learning a new language.

"When I first came I had no idea what they were talking about," Seth said.

After 10 weeks at Sensus, Close and fellow intern Matthew Gibson can better speak the language of engineering, computers and programming.

Since he's not in college, Close was previously told he couldn't get an internship at this high-tech RTP company that makes products for the utilities industry.

But the Durham Public Schools and the city's Office of Economic and Workforce Development are working to get high school students into more private companies.

"We're approaching it from an angle that this is your future workforce, you can actually impact your future workforce and also be recruiting at an earlier age," said Rick Sheldahl, director of career-technical education at Durham Public Schools.

Sensus saw it was a smarter solution to having better trained employees.

Dan Pinney, Director of Water and Gas at Sensus, said,  "You've got a limited amount of talent and if you want the best talent for your company, then you've got to get out there and attract them."

Students participated in the internship program this summer. They worked with about 80 different employers. Half of those were private industry and the other half the city and the county.

Sheldahl said, "We need to get those kids that are on the bubble about deciding whether or not it's worth it to stay in school, but we also have to take that high-end group of students who are real hot runners and give them that experience too because need them to be focused on what they want to do on their career path."

Close and Gibson now have a better sense of their path, which now has less of a learning curve thanks to this experience.

"I think it shaped what I see myself doing in the future a lot because after working here I can tell that I like working with computers and I like being around people when I work," Gibson said.

"Students don't realize how little they know compared to the real world and how ill-prepared they will be once they leave high school," Seth said.

The program is now trying to get information about the interns and track them through the years to see what impact the internships had on their careers.

Students who are interested in participating can talk with the career development coordinator at their school.

Companies can contact the Durham Economic and Workforce Development Program for information.

 

Justin Quesinberry

Justin is a reporter for WNCN and a North Carolina native. He has spent the better part of the last decade covering the news in central North Carolina.  More>>

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