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As we all know, 2020 challenged schools and internship programs in ways none of us have ever experienced. In response to the pandemic, SA Works launched a successful (but smaller) 100% virtual internship program. With a year of learning and creativity to improve, the SA Works internship program will offer both in-person and virtual options to suit company needs. Our goal is to place 350 high school students in real-world work environments. Both employers and interns will benefit immensely from navigating plans to return to the office together.

To date, we have more high school students registered than available internships. We need more employers and businesses to ensure we have robust and diverse internship offerings that reflect our growing industries and to ensure San Antonio’s youth are college and career ready.

A recent Harvard Business School op-ed highlights that both “transferable soft skills and job-specific technical skills” are critical to bridging the gap between school and career and that when “acquired in a setting similar to the one in which they will be applied are much more durable.”

This summer, we are expanding on our marketable skills-guided modules which include Mindset for Success, Identity and Personal Brand, Workplace Success, and Emotional Intelligence to also include Resilience. Interns will have the opportunity to practice communicating with confidence, workplace productivity, and time management. As interns complete these modules, they earn digital badges that support their essential or “soft skills” development that can also be added to the intern’s portfolio and resume.

We surveyed past interns and learned that 81% agreed the program experience showed them the kinds of skills, education, and certifications they might need in their chosen field, and 82% identified a significant improvement in their essential skills through the internship.

We recognize that the pandemic disrupted the operating models of many of our participating employers across the private, public, and nonprofit sectors while tightening the availability of traditional youth employment jobs. Yet we are also highly optimistic about our community’s ability to come together in support of our internship program which is not only beneficial to youth but also forms a critical part in closing the gap for employer’s workforce needs

In support of employers, we are committed to providing flexibility and programmatic support including a job matching platform and even funding to employers with budgetary constraints while ensuring high school interns are paid competitive hourly wages.

We are proud to share that this is the first year that SA Works received support from the City of San Antonio’s Department of Human Services, in partnership with Family Service, as part of their youth employment and workforce readiness funding. This funding, coupled with long-time private sector funding from the Charles Butt Foundation, Bank of America, and the USAA Foundation, among others, will go a long way in removing financial obstacles between employers and high school interns.

San Antonio students are ready. We have had more than 500 youth prove they are ready for the challenge and we need employers like you to get creative and meet that challenge. How can we help you?

SA Works stands ready to partner and ensure we are growing our future workforce together. We are all in for building future-ready talent in San Antonio.

Romanita Matta-Barrera

Romanita Matta-Barrera is executive vice president of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation and executive director of SA Works.