Externships: Creating Advocates in the Classroom

Have you ever passed a hospital, chemical plant, or huge tech firm and wondered, “what goes on inside?” Well, you aren’t alone. A majority of middle and high school students and their parents aren’t aware of the high-wage, high-demand STEM career opportunities that are available in the Capital Region. For example, when it comes to careers in the healthcare industry most students can only name two jobs that are found in a hospital – doctor and nurse. The Capital Region is host to a plethora of career opportunities and it’s important for students to know they don’t have to leave our region to find great careers. 

As a response to the lack of student exposure to careers in the region, BRAC created the annual Teacher Externship Program. 

What’s the BRAC Teacher Externship Program? 

The program is a week-long immersive experience for Baton Rouge Area teachers and education professionals to explore the STEM-rich manufacturing, technology, healthcare, and construction/skilled craft industries by shadowing businesses. Through this experience, teachers gain industry knowledge that they can then share with their students as they navigate their post-graduation plans and career decisions. 

To showcase the industries as best they can in a week’s time, many of BRAC’s partner companies go above and beyond for the teacher externs by providing them with hands-on demonstrations, panels of employees to allow in-depth facilitated discussions, and activities meant to increase their knowledge and enrich their experiences. 

What Did the Teacher Externs Do? 

In early June, 45 middle and high school educators representing 34 schools were selected from over 80 applicants to be part of the fourth cohort of teacher externs. Differing from previous years, BRAC opened the program to any middle and high school teacher who is employed in one of the 13 districts that make up the Capital Region, including traditional and charter schools within the systems.  

The subjects taught by the educators varied widely, from core subjects (such as Math and English) to Career and Technical Education. The diverse group of education professionals included teachers, several guidance counselors, a principal, and even a librarian who focused on digital media.  

Programming spanned five days, four of which teachers were on-site with their host business. These four days were spent learning about the variety of occupations connected to each respective industry. Teachers were provided interview templates and skills assessments and were encouraged to speak with and ask questions of employees. The program culminated on the fifth day with a debrief and discussion of the week. During this time, teacher externs received professional communication training, an explanation and training on BRAC’s Virtual Schoolhouse, and a collaborative strategy planning activity to help teachers better connect their learnings from the week into the classroom.  

What’s the Impact? 

To ensure the program provides a positive impact to students, BRAC created a survey that is administered in each externs’ classroom at the beginning of the semester to measure students’ knowledge of regional industry jobs and soft skills. A similar survey is administered to the same students at the end of the semester to measure what knowledge was gained during the semester. BRAC collects the data to create benchmarks for performance. 

BRAC’s goal is that education professionals remain engaged and become advocates in the classroom for the careers that are available in the Capital Region within the high-wage, high-demand industries of manufacturing, IT, construction/skilled craft, and healthcare.

Ethan Melancon

As the policy and research project manager, Ethan is the staff lead for education and workforce development focusing on cultivating the Capital Region’s talent through STEM learning and aligning workforce development systems to meet business needs.

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