MPLOY summer interns learn job skills and the ins and out of higher education
A youth summer internship program is turning out to be a good recruitment tool for Southwest. For the fifth year in a row, Southwest hosted a group of interns from Memphis at the Macon Cove Campus as part of the MPLOY Youth Summer Experience. Students worked in various departments on campus in entry level positions where they learned soft job skills while also being exposed to the ins and out of how higher education works.
Dr. Shanita Brown, associate vice president for enrollment services, said the College hired 12 students who were assigned to a broad scope of departments ranging from information technology services to admissions to financial aid and advising. “Most people think if you want to work in higher ed that you have to have a Ph.D.,” Brown said. “But that’s not the case. There are all kinds of support jobs available. We were very intentional to spread them across departments so that they could see all that we have to offer.”
MPLOY is a locally funded initiative administered by the Memphis Office of Youth Services which provides Memphis youth ages 14-22 with meaningful and rewarding summer experiences. The program partners with some of the city’s top employers in industries such as banking, government, retail, arts, health care, non-profit, and education to provide jobs. Participants work for six weeks during the summer months, from June 2-July 11, in jobs from different career settings where they get career mentoring, entrepreneurship training, learn financial literacy, and earn credits toward industry certifications.
The theme for this year’s summer experience was “We Win.” According to Memphis Office of Youth Services Youth Program Manager Joyce Douglas, the time to build the next generation of future employees, entrepreneurs, leaders and civic minded citizens is now. “Encouraging and providing opportunities for Memphis youth is a necessary investment in our future,” Douglas said. “All in all, “We Win” because building the Memphis of tomorrow starts today.”
Keneshia Seals, program specialist in enrollment services, said this year they also had professional development sessions where different speakers came in and talked to the students about their jobs and offered words of encouragement and career advice. “We wanted to make it more enriching for them and more meaningful so they would walk away knowing more about higher education and have even more career options in front of them,” Seals said.
Seals said the students were tasked with doing a research project. They were divided into two groups. One group had to come up with a product and brand it and then try to convince people to buy it. “They created a smoothie bar,” Seals said. “Each smoothie represented their flavor like the type of person they are. We had kiwi, tropical sun side, banana ape. It was so incredible. They were each a flavor.” The other group was tasked with branding themselves. Seals said they had to tell who they were, what skills they had, and why they should be the one to get hired. “They had to interview one another,” Seals said. “I had to give them feedback about what I thought of them when I first met them and what I learned about them. If I told them something bad, they had to tell me how they were going to fix it. It was a really great opportunity to learn about each other. Out in the workforce they will have to work with colleagues with different personalities and backgrounds. So this really opened them up.”
Tayla Wooden, a recent graduate of White Station High School, worked in the academic affairs department. She learned how to make spreadsheets using Microsoft Excel and how to make books with a binding machine. “My experience helping Dr. (Jennifer) Townes was great,” Wooden said. “I met a lot of people and made a lot of new friends.” Wooden will be enrolling at Southwest in the fall and plans to study social work.
For Terrence Burnett, a 12th-grader at Memphis Business Academy Charter School, this year was the second time he worked at Southwest. Last year he worked in the admissions department. This summer, he learned about computers in the information technology services department. “I liked it,” Burnett said. “I was helping to do inventory and learning to break down computers and look at the components, which I had never seen before.” Burnett said he is interested in becoming an electronics technician and may consider coming to Southwest when he graduates.
Brown said the MPLOY program is a great recruiting opportunity for Southwest. One of their interns from last year who enrolled is now an orientation leader. Another student from this summer’s experience has been offered a work study job in the same department where she worked, and four of the interns are already enrolled for the fall. “They have completed all of their paperwork and are just waiting for their new student orientation,” Brown said. “This is a great opportunity for us to attract students. Our goal is to turn this into a pipeline for Southwest.”
Brown and Seals attended the MPLOY Excellence Awards July 12 at the Cannon Center. Southwest was nominated for the Youth Business Partner award in the high school intern category. The award recognizes MPLOY business partners that demonstrate the most outstanding and innovative internships for youth.
Congratulations to Dr. Brown, Seals and their team on their nomination and contributions toward preparing students for careers and higher education.