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NextFlex Summer Workforce Development Interns Share Their Stories

By Ryan Fulgham & Sadie Shoemaker, Willow Glen High School Students, San Jose, CA

Due to the distance learning mandate in response to Covid-19 in Santa Clara County, CA, the FlexFactor® program was quickly modified for virtual delivery so that participating students could complete their program virtually. The results were so successful that resources were created for scaled online delivery so all FlexFactor ecosystems across the US could continue delivering upcoming programs as distance learning mandates remain in place. To achieve this, the NextFlex Workforce Development team worked this summer with two high school interns to assist in the creation of materials that will translate the high-impact experiences of touring an industry facility or college campus to a virtual environment. Here are the stories from Sadie and Ryan, our summer interns.

We are Sadie and Ryan, both seniors at Willow Glen High School in San Jose, CA, and we are the summer Workforce Development interns. During this internship, we worked on planning and producing materials for the virtual delivery of FlexFactor, specifically “College Day” and “Industry Day.” Industry Day is a central element of the FlexFactor program designed to raise awareness of what its really like to work in the Advanced Manufacturing sector. Industry Day is followed by College Day, which helps students discover the variety of education pathways that lead into STEM sector jobs and to learn about the advantages that Community Colleges can provide. These experiences are central to the FlexFactor program, as they help students put their FlexFactor projects into perspective and introduce them to opportunities and resources we don’t normally get to learn about in high school. When the program was delivered in-person, these two days consisted of field trips with on-site tours and activities. This summer, we were tasked with re-creating the experience for Zoom. Due to the experiential nature of both College and Industry Day, it was important to create an engaging and participatory program that students would not only learn from, but also feel excited about.

My name is Sadie. After having gone through the FlexFactor program and getting 2nd place in FlexFactor Finals this past semester, I was eager to spend time working in the field that NextFlex is all about. Throughout this internship, I have learned about how Community Colleges provide education programs that lead to careers in manufacturing in the future. I took on reimagining College Day as my main project for the internship. In order to create a compelling College Day experience, I performed research, distributed surveys, conducted interviews, and gathered information on the many educational pathways available to students, and how those pathways set students up for different careers. Additionally, I have curated a flowchart that shows students how educational pathways can connect to careers in STEM in Advanced Manufacturing, including Technician and other two-year degree jobs. Being a FlexFactor alumnae gave me a valuable inside perspective that I’ve used to help make the program as effective as possible. I learned a lot, and was able to create resources for students that answered the kinds of questions I have about college that are not addressed by my school’s college counselor or the other resources typically provided to high school students. I am so grateful to be working alongside my good friend Ryan and cannot wait to use the skills I am learning now in future projects.

My name is Ryan, and through this internship I have been tasked with the creation of the virtual Industry Day experience. Taking part in this internship program has been eye-opening for me. As someone who is infatuated not only with not science, but also with the ways it is applied and used to benefit people, helping with the new phase of this program has been a really rewarding experience for me. From participating in FlexFactor and this internship, I have learned so much about ways that science is used in industry as well as the way businesses work. During this internship I created materials that addresses questions and concerns my friends and I have about our first jobs such as proper Zoom etiquette, how to create and give presentations, and other important skills that many of us don’t learn in regular high school classes. I have learned so much about an industry-based career and my preconceptions of what it was like to work in the advanced manufacturing sector have changed drastically. I am so honored to have been able to participate in this amazing program and so excited to have participated in helping inform future students about all the career possibilities in this sector.

NextFlex Workforce Development Interns Sadie Shoemaker (L) & Ryan Fulgham (R)

We are both so grateful for this opportunity! We cannot wait to see our efforts come to fruition and benefit students who participate in the FlexFactor program in the future. Flexible Hybrid Electronics and Community Colleges are the future of technology and the workforce, and it is so exciting that we could be a part of it. We would like to thank our amazing NextFlex manager, Christina Moore, and our FlexFactor teacher from our Willow Glen AP Biology, Mr. Powell, because we would not be working at NextFlex without his support. Thanks for a great summer!