Educator Externships are a unique professional development opportunity where teachers are immersed in a company to learn about the skills and competencies needed to succeed in that industry or career path. The experience strengthens an educator’s teaching abilities and brings relevant, real-world context into the classroom. Externships are often transformative for educators, students, and industry partners. Impacting just one teacher allows a company to reach between 20-150 students each year.
Benefits and Challenges
- A unique avenue for community involvement
- In-kind support of time and expertise are immensely valuable to educators and their students
- Better understand the demands and challenges of education through the lens of an educator
- Help bring real problems of practice into the curriculum by collaboratively developing projects or capstones
- Provides connection to schools that can lead to further opportunities for work-based learning partnerships
- Creating opportunities that are mutually beneficial to the educator and business
- Capacity to plan for, manage, and support extern
Students & Educators
- Experience will inform the design and implementation of classroom activities that add relevance and meaning to students’ learning
- Provide a fresh perspective on today’s most pressing issues
- Potential for business to get more involved in schools as guest speakers, mentors, hosting field trips and job shadows, or offering internships for students
- Educators are often paid for their time, in addition to the first-hand experience they receive
- Externships can be in competition with educators’ time, especially key learning and certification requirements
The purpose of an educator externship is to engage in activities in industry and/or service-based organizations, and to learn how classroom content and learning strategies are applied in the workplace.
Teachers improve their pedagogical practices by incorporating new methods, labor market information, and employment skills that meet current industry standards.
The educational goal of an externship is to increase a teacher’s ability to connect theory and practice and bring an understanding of workplace practices and policies (e.g. problem-solving methods, practical applications of theory, leadership concepts) into the classroom, thus increasing the relevance of student learning.
In Career Academies, teacher externships take on increased meaning as Career Technical Education (CTE) teachers and core academic teachers build the bridge between skills-based and knowledge-based education. With the goal that all students, be prepared for college and careers teachers must constantly update their own knowledge and skills about current workplace practices, requirements, and tools by gaining an “on the ground” understanding of economic and career trends that will affect their students.
The externship experience helps teachers connect classroom content with students’ future career interests and helps students develop both the academic and technical skills required in the world they are preparing to enter.
Key Planning Activities for Educators
No two teachers, schools, or communities are alike, and planning will lead to a richer, more useful experience.
The following questions will help guide you in developing a structure and goals for your externship to ensure you are getting the most out of the experience personally and professionally. Once you have considered these questions, you can use the additional resources at the bottom to begin your outreach to potential hosts.
Planning for Your Externship
Externship Objectives & Expected Outcomes
What do you hope to get out of the externship experience and how will this translate to your work as a classroom teacher? Include curriculum or products you hope to develop through this experience. How will the externship experience lead to improved student learning?
How many hours or days will you spend in the workplace?
It is recommended that, at a minimum, externs spend at least two full days or the equivalent of 16 hours in the workplace each week. The more time you spend, however, the more you will learn and the more contacts you will make for future possibilities such as guest speakers, field trips, and student job- shadows/internships.
When will I do an externship?
Externships typically take place over the summer, and shorter experiences could potentially occur during school breaks, such as spring break. If you plan to take time during the school year, you’ll want to discuss with your supervisor and make arrangements for a regular substitute.
How will I be compensated for my time?
If you do an externship as a release day from work with a substitute, think about who will pay for the substitute, or for your time if it is during non-school days: the school, the externship provider, a grant?
What will you do during your externship?
Will you be conducting informational interviews with various departments such as IT, manufacturing, or the research & development team? Working alongside someone sharing their day-to-day responsibilities? Or, working in a team to complete a project using new knowledge and skills?
Contacting a Workplace
Brainstorm businesses, industry, and not-for-profit organizations that would be relevant for your classroom. Use your Advisory Committee/Board, the internet, your local chamber of commerce, Better Business Bureau, and colleagues to research appropriate places. Contact Human Resources or Public Relations at these organizations if you do not have a contact person. See “Application Resources” below for more support.
Materials and Resources
What do you need in advance, such as safety equipment? Is there anything you should read or prepare before the experience?
The Educator Intern
Hosting an educator follows many of same processes and considerations as hiring an intern or apprentice — i.e. the program should meet your business needs.
That said, you are bringing in a skilled educator to learn from and provide insight to your company. You should leverage the educator to provide new perspective to the work you do; and give them opportunities to experience and learn new skills and mindsets that can be applied in their school.
Ultimately, externships benefit students’ learnings, career awareness and exploration, and likely other opportunities to partner with the school/district on workforce initiatives.
Examples and Partners
Every summer, the Colorado Bioscience Institute partners with districts across Colorado to run the STEM Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program. The goal of the program is to give teachers first-hand opportunities on the latest research and development in Colorado’s growing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) industries.
The Poudre School District Teacher Externship Program gives high school and middle school teachers and administrators opportunities to work with local businesses to gain additional expertise in their content area. Participants are encouraged to learn about academic pathways into sectors and industries, employment expectations, and future opportunities, then share this information with their students and colleagues.
STEMpath, a program run by mindSpark Learning affords educators the unique opportunity to take part in a graduate-level program that provides them with the competence and skills to teach STEM and computer science. The combination of work-based learning through in-industry externships, coursework, and professional learning focused around career literacy, information science, and equity-centered design thinking provides a well-rounded, well-informed perspective of computer science far beyond the traditional skills of coding and programming. Key partners include Couragion, Metro State University, Ball, Bitsbox, and Pathway 2 Tomorrow.
Shannon Meyers, Director of Research and Development, mindSpark Learning
US Engineering’s Externship Program supports key business objectives by developing and enriching key community and industry relationships into the organization. Through the program, managers have the unique opportunity to connect theory and classroom practices by applying strategies in the workplace environment. Professionals are then able to acquire practical work experience, gain an understanding of the USE culture, and take back their knowledge and share it with their students in the classroom.
Desiree Hack, Recruiting Manager