When Jacob Huerta walked the stage June 1 to collect his high school diploma, he already had a paying job lined up – as a carpenter’s helper intern, a position that was part of the city’s largest internship program to date.
With some hard work and dedication over the course of the summer, Huerta turned that internship into a full-time career with competitive pay, tuition reimbursement, paid vacation, and an array of benefits.
“He was a hard worker,” said Ellen Ward, human resources manager at Joeris General Contractors, the company that hired Huerta for an internship after interviewing him at Southwest High School. She said he impressed his supervisors by showing up on time, staying late, and following instructions.
Huerta was one of 900 San Antonio middle school, high school, and college student interns who held jobs over the summer through SA Works, the City of San Antonio Department of Human Services Ambassador Program, and the Family Service Association, a collaboration that brought together nearly 200 employers, including Joeris.
The goal of the internship program, now in its fourth year, is to build a better-skilled and sustainable workforce pipeline for San Antonio and to teach job skills and career basics, some of which Huerta had already mastered at his high school. SA Works is a program of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation (SAEDF) to align San Antonio’s economic and workforce development strategies. Joeris CEO Gary Joeris is a founding member of the program.
Huerta, 18, now assists Joeris project engineers, carpenters, and subcontractors with everything from installing sheetrock to tying rebar, and plans to enroll in carpentry skills training through Joeris as soon as he’s eligible.
For now, he is right back where he first began taking construction courses as a freshman: Southwest High School. There, he’s working as a carpenter’s helper on Joeris’ renovation project and occasionally sees his former teachers and friends.
“I tell [friends] it’s a little bit of hard work, but they have good benefits, and the people are friendly,” Huerta said. “They are kind of hard on you, but they just want to get the job done, so that’s kind of normal. It’s a really good company, one that will be in business for a while.”
Huerta set a goal to work in construction while in high school, but said he isn’t sure what he would be doing without the job at Joeris – perhaps working in a retail job. Instead, he wakes up each day, excited he’ll be doing something new and different than the day before.
“We need our carpenters to know everything – groundwork, laying pipe, concrete floors to roofs, installing doors, window glazing,” Ward said. “The reason is because we bring our carpenters up through the ranks and they become our senior superintendents.”
Carpentry positions like the one Huerta holds, she added, do not require a college degree. But the company encourages employees to pursue educational opportunities and even pays bonuses for those who complete apprenticeship school.
The internship gave Huerta a leg up on more than just carpentry skills. “I learned how adults live, how they get up every morning, how to be responsible, having a mindset that you don’t spend all your money away,” he said. “I’m paying bills now. I’m saving for a car.”
Students who participated in this summer’s internship program and their employers were recognized at a celebration dinner Aug. 9. A few others who completed successful internships through the program this year include these four local students:
- Stacy Carrizales, a Jungle Disk intern, plans to continue her education in information technology this fall through the Alamo Academies Information Technology & Security Academy at St. Philip’s College.
- Sofia Angeles, a senior at Brandeis High School, worked in Bexar County’s Procurement Office this summer.
- Matthew Umana, an intern for the second summer in a row at Firstmark Credit Union, is attending the University of Texas at Austin.
- Julian Oliva, a summer intern at American Fire Protection Group, graduated from the International School of the Americas and is attending San Antonio College this fall while continuing to work with American Fire Protection as a college-level intern.