Seven Skills for Childcare Internships

colorsq2Many youth employment programs provide opportunities for teens to work in early childhood education settings: in childcare programs, summer day camps, preschool and kindergarten classrooms. Interns may work as teaching assistants, assisting with child’s activities as well as general classroom duties such as organizing materials, preparing snacks and general cleaning.  Interns may prepare lessons for the class, with teaching and activities appropriate to the age of the group of children.  Interns may have the opportunity to come up with “activities in a pinch” – those quick games and art projects that can be organized and introduced quickly when an activity is needed.  Interns may work with children on early reading and math literacy, as well as art, music, science, nature study and other children’s interests.

What are the skills that interns practice in these settings?   Here is an example of seven skills from a summer internship in a childcare center.

Skill Description
Child Development Demonstrating understanding of age appropriate activities, communication and behavior for assigned age group
Organizing materials Keeping art materials, toys and other materials organized. Making sure that materials are easy to find and ready to use.
Art and Creativity Exploring your creativity while inspiring others through various art projects.
Leadership and Role Modeling Role modeling appropriate behavior (being polite, positive, using appropriate language) Encouraging children to participate, by actively participating.
Reading and Literacy Encouraging children‘s literacy skills by participating in story-time and other reading related activities.
Math Encouraging children to learn and practice basic math skills by counting, using the calendar, noticing shapes and noticing patterns.
Safety Procedures Following safety procedures and regulations. Successfully completing CPR and other safety training.

Seven Skills for Summer Internship Special Projects

Screen print from GIS mapping program

What type of information do interns work with for your organization? Shown here, a screen from a GIS mapping program.

In lots of workplaces, summertime is the season for summer interns and special projects.  The ideal project is one that is valuable to your organization; provides the intern with insight into your organization and field of work; will require a significant number of hours of work; and involves skills and tasks that you can teach to a short-term intern.

For example, in the past I have hired interns to work on maps using online mapping software, to lay out database screens for a large database project, and to update a series of PowerPoint presentations.  In each case, I had already designed the project and identified the software needed, the steps involved, and the general look of the project.  I left some of the decision-making to the interns so that they could put their own stamp on the finished project.

Many summer internships involve interesting special projects.  Inventorying trees for a city.  Cataloging materials for a museum.  Developing a database of stock photos for a marketing department.  Creating a local directory of local social services. Putting an organization’s employee handbook or safety manual online.

What are the skills that interns develop and use in these projects?  Here an example of a set of seven skills:

Skill Description
Project management Using organizational tools and strategies to keep track of your project step-by-step.  This may include using checklists, calendars, stylesheets, project notebooks and other tools as needed by the project.
Managing information Gathering and organizing information for the project.  Paying attention to accuracy of information; making sure that information is complete; avoiding duplication.  [For example: gathering garden names, volunteer names, photos and location coordinates for park gardens for a park mapping project.]
Applied Mathematics Being able to discuss and use basic math concepts.  [For example: understanding the coordinates system used in computer layouts or understanding the use of latitude and longitude in mapping programs.]
Problem Solving Being alert to identify problems, such as missing information, duplicated information or software issues.   Systematically identifying potential solutions, communicating with supervisor and other team members to determine best solutions, and applying the solution(s).  Writing notes and sharing any agreements about what steps to take in the future for the issue.
Using Technology Becoming fluent in the use of relevant software programs.  Systematically managing computer files and folders for the project, including spreadsheets, photos, documents and other materials.  Properly using usernames and passwords to maintain the safety and confidentiality of information.
Active Learning Taking initiative to learn about the scope of the project, organizational goals, and the software and technology being used.  Looking at the organization website, reading manuals and other resources as needed.  Asking questions relevant to the project.
Career Development Using the internship experience to explore career interests and find out about future opportunities related to this field.


Seven Skills for Journalism Internships

jourmalismskillsPart of a series of “seven skills” articles.

What are the skills used in journalism internships? Many students seek out jobs and internships in journalism and related arts, media and communications positions. What are some of the responsibilities they take on? What skills do they develop? Here is a sample of seven skills from the Work-Based Learning Plan for a sports journalism internship for a local newspaper.



Skill: Description
Collecting and Organizing Information -Proactively communicate with coaches to receive game recaps in order to gather data to be entered on website roundups and for print. -Attend sporting event, documenting events of game, augmented with comments from couches and players, to create an article for the newspaper.
Time Management Write articles in the parameters of deadlines when covering late-breaking events; exercise good news judgment.
Understanding All Aspects of the Industry -Cover various types of sports events, including high school sports, collegiate baseball, and semi-pro football games.  -Become aware of the various roles, responsibilities, and departments within the newspaper.
Teamwork Skills -Interact with reporters and serve as a resource to reporters by representing a youth perspective. -Complete misc. tasks for sports editor to ease department workload/production.
Journalism Skills -Conduct interviews with players and coaches, including questions drawn from both personal and coach’s observations. -Research and writing involved with a daily feature.
Computer Technology -Create articles using Adobe software. -Post scores to newspaper website via web-based program as they are received by coaches. -Assist with videotaping of various sports games.
Creativity -Develop a “story bank” of feature story ideas for future use.

Here is a word cloud of skills appearing on Work-Based Learning Plans for journalism internships. See what inspirations comes from these!

Seven Skills for Culinary Arts & Food Service Internships

iStock_000017347820Medium_CookWhat are the skills used in culinary arts, cooking and food service careers?  What skills do youth build in their work-based learning experiences?  From our database of Work-Based Learning Plans, here is a set of seven skills.

Youth may be participating in a student-run restaurant based in a school or youth program; as interns in a local restaurant; or as entrepreneurs in a food-oriented business.  Roles will vary across settings.  In a student-run restaurant, students take the lead in menu planning and recipe selection.  In a local restaurant, students serve in an assistant or apprentice to experienced staff. In each setting, participants apply cooking and culinary arts skills that they have learned through formal classroom instruction or training.  Participants also develop additional skills and learn new techniques on the job.  Participants apply knowledge of food safety and safe use of tools and equipment.  Participants apply knowledge of nutrition and health to menu planning.  Participants apply teamwork, creativity, math, reading and other core skills to the work.

Skill Description
Teamwork Interns work together to prepare large quantities of an item or dish. All interns will have a specific role in the preparation and execution of a recipe, and rely on team members to ensure success. They need to be able to offer advice as well as accept constructive criticism to effectively work together as a team.
Mathematics and Measurement Interns must be able to correctly measure and weigh all ingredients needed for a recipe and use math as needed in planning, budgeting and managing inventory.
Reading Interns use reading comprehension skills when reading and learning a new recipe. Interns will encounter unfamiliar words, phrases and concepts that they may never have heard before.
Safety Interns follow standard industry practices with regard to food safety and safe use of tools and equipment.  Good communication, time management, and a comfortable pace of work are essential to creating a safe environment.
Creativity Interns utilize their creativity when adding their own spin on a certain recipe. After reviewing with their site supervisor an intern may attempt to create his/her own recipe from scratch. They also are able to design the presentation of the dish they have made.
Nutrition and Health Awareness Interns draw on knowledge of nutrition, health, food choices and diet, as these issues affect menu planning and choice of ingredients.
Cooking/Culinary Skills Interns apply culinary arts skills (food prep, menu planning, customer service, sanitation, food safety) to the workplace setting.


Seven Skills for Entrepreneurial Projects

Many summer, school-year and year-round youth employment programs engage youth in entrepreneurship projects.  In some projects, students develop new businesses starting from the ground up.  Students identify a product or service, write business plans and develop strategies for financing, marketing and production.  In other projects, youth may join in as owners/workers in ongoing youth-run business; in others youth work in entrepreneurialy focused projects in local businesses and organizations.  Experiences include:

  • Identifying and defining a product and a market
  • Product development
  • Brand development
  • Staffing
  • Development of logos, marketing materials and social media presence
  • Day-to-day production, sales and customer service

From a sample of Massachusetts Work-Based Learning Plans, here is a selection of seven skills that are relevant to entrepreneurial projects.

Skill Description
Project Management Systematically using project management tools, such as checklists, timelines, calendars and planning charts to manage a project step by step.
Reading, Research and Analysis Gathering information to support business planning.  Research includes gathering information about the potential market for a product; looking at the existence of complementary or competitive businesses in your market; looking at staffing and production costs; finding out about potential sources of start-up funding, and other aspects of business planning.  Reading industry-related materials to learn more about product trends, technology or other aspects of the business.
Creativity Generating fresh approaches to any and all aspects of the business: products and services, marketing materials, packaging, logos, channels for outreach and distribution, publicity and customer service.  Creativity may be highly original “out-of-the-box” thinking or just a slightly fresh approach.
Customer Service Skills Listening to and understanding the needs and wants of customers.  Working to meet those needs through high quality customer service and products.
 Production Skills Using available time, resources and materials to produce a high quality product or service.
Computer Technology / Graphic Design Using available software and social media to support the business.  Tasks may include graphic design, social media marketing, budgeting, data management or other tasks.
Entrepreneurial Thinking Approaching day-to-day activities as well as major decisions in light of the mission, goals and values of the business.  Decisions are shaped by values including profit, long-term viability of the business, excellent customer experience, high quality products, innovation, artisanship, community-mindedness, environmental concern and/or other values.


Entrepreneurship Insights: Student Entrepreneurship Program Skills/Tasks

entrepreneurwordsWhat are the skills used in student entrepreneurship programs?  What projects and tasks do students work on?  For a quick insight, I looked at a sample of job descriptions and skills/tasks lists from the Massachusetts Work-Based Learning Plans that were customized for students in entrepreneurship programs.  First, I did a quick word count.  What words show up most frequently?  Excluding words like “the, and, for, also” the most 40 common words are listed below, and shown in a “word cloud.”

A word list can be a good conversation starter for noticing key themes.   I notice the strong business focus, of course, and I especially notice words related to the cluster of skills that support entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation:  designing, creating, writing, communicating, presenting, calculating, designing, thinking….   What patterns do you notice?

The next post will look at some of the job descriptions…. meanwhile it’s fun to look at the word list and ponder the key themes….


business / businesses
student / students
design / designing
create / creating
plan / plans
communicate / communication

Succeeding in Small Business – Entrepreneurship Insights

Are you involved in entrepreneurial programs or teaching entrepreneurship? Take a look at the award-winning “Succeeding in Small Business” blog, authored by public relations expert Jeanne Yocum. The blog features Q&A posts with small businesses plus tips and insights for small businesses. I recently connected with Jeanne, and she published a Q&A about my experience as a small business owner.

The blog address is

The profile is here.

The Mosaic Economy – Part III – Exploring Labor Markets in a Mosaic Economy

The concept of the mosaic economy suggests a fresh approach to analyzing labor market trends. The job market can be very dynamic, with new opportunities emerging as the economy shapes and re-shapes itself. People work in many creative efforts, often in jobs that do not fit neatly into the categories defined by labor market statistics.  Economic trends can create clusters of new jobs that span several different industries and occupations, and therefore could be easily missed by the formal data.

Formal labor market data should be just a starting point for discussion, helping to identify trends and to raise good questions. The data should be supplemented by observation, conversation about underlying trends and entrepreneurial prospects and other exploration.

In a healthy economy, industries and occupations may surprise experts by rebounding after a period of decline. New technology or rediscovery of old technology, and new consumer needs or renewed attention to earlier values can result in a turnaround of industries that had been expected to decline and die. Entrepreneurial efforts can tap into areas neglected by others, resulting in new energy and revival. Recently, revitalization in manufacturing and agriculture have demonstrated this concept. Recent news reports have highlighted a shortage of manufacturing workers suggests that decision-making by individuals and organizations in the past few decades was not sufficiently responsive to signs of resilience and revitalization in manufacturing.

Most importantly, there is a danger that if we view this data too rigidly, to imply that workers must be prepared and trained to compete for a limited number of pre-defined jobs, we will fail to understand the full potential of the economy.

For the past several years, I have worked with students and colleagues to gather informational interviews with people in a variety of career fields. I also gather data through several youth employment database projects that I manage, getting a glimpse of people’s careers and career paths. I have learned that many people have careers that evolved over many years, having been shaped by personal choices, changes in technology, local, national and world economic trends, environmental concerns, and other factors. Many people are now working in areas very different from the career paths that they started on when they were in high school, college and first jobs. Many work in job titles that they had never heard of and would not have thought of when they were in school and preparing to launch their careers. Many are pursuing their original career values and interests in ways they would not have predicted, in occupations and industries that are different from their earliest expectations.

When we ask people about their careers, several themes emerge. Basic themes of food, personal health, environment, community connectedness, artisanship and entrepreneurship mix together across industries and occupations to create a mosaic of career opportunities. Different ways of organizing work have produced opportunities in professional and business services in support of manufacturing, technology, health care and other sectors.

The values of “personal environment” and “community connectedness” are apparent in a variety of jobs. One example is a bookstore events coordinator who organizes readings, book clubs, discussion groups and lectures, making the bookstore a source of community connection. Another example is a workshop instructor in a “sewing lounge,” a fabric store where people can drop in to rent the sewing machines, take classes and workshops, buy fabrics and meet people.

Similarly-themed examples include a community gardening coordinator, farmers’ market coordinator, yoga instructor, fitness center manager, developer of a new social media website, writer for an online newspaper, park landscaper, instructor in a homelessness outreach project, pastor in a small community church, and a variety of other professionals in health, education, social and community settings. These jobs, which span private and public sectors, and include technology, services, hospitality and retailing, all center on the themes of personal environment and community connectedness.

Another theme is the importance in our personal, community and professional lives of making, growing, fixing and building things.

A small but visible artisanal economy is emerging, with both established producers and newer firms creatively producing organic food products, building wooden furniture, building boats, manufacturing custom bicycles, producing organic cotton fabrics, and designing and producing clothing.

On a larger scale, manufacturers are finding new niches in green technology, medical product development and even in many almost-forgotten sectors of basic manufacturing. Construction and mechanic/repair trades are evolving with the use of new technology and environmental approaches. Professional services in support of manufacturing and agriculture are re-emerging, with new demands for technical training, research, marketing and distribution support.

Another theme of the mosaic economy is the theme of social, personal and business entrepreneurship. People create and share open source software, create and launch new websites, organize community arts programs, youth programs, sports leagues, or recovery and self-help programs. People create start-up businesses and work in freelance roles. People invest time in community organizing, volunteer work and internships, not only for the experience itself, and not only for the benefit to communities, but, increasingly, as a way of investing in future careers.  Understanding the entrepreneurial focus of the current economy is important. Even in regular wage and salary jobs, people are most successful when they take an entrepreneurial approach to their work and long-term career path, being willing to try new things, take on new assignments, learn about new products and develop new skills.

Mosaic Economy Over the past year or so, I worked on a book called “The Mosaic Economy” about the mosaic of jobs and opportunities in today’s job market. The book is available as a paperback for $16 plus shipping from the Harvard Bookstore and as an e-book from Amazon. This week I have a “countdown deal” on Amazon allowing readers to purchase the e-book for a discounted rate of $1.99 rather than the usual e-book price of $9.99. While most of the work I do is available free of charge, this is a separate project…. and is something new for me. I appreciate your support on this exciting project and invite you to enjoy this excerpt and share this post via your organization’s social media.

The Mosaic Economy:

Ordering Information: Paperback from Harvard Bookstore | e-book from

Ordering information can also be found on the home page at


Benefits of Youth Jobs and Internships

By providing first jobs in your industry, you are investing in the future of your industry locally and beyond.

Does your community have a School-to-Career/Connecting Activities program that helps students find jobs and internships?  Have you been asked to consider offering a job or internship to local youth?  Are you wondering if hiring youth might be a good step for your business or organization?  A job or internship is a great experience for youth, helping them to develop skills, start to build a resume, and have an opportunity to support a local business or organization and support their community.   But how will this step support you and your organizational goals?

Seven good reasons to consider hiring a youth employee or intern:

1.) Social Networking at its best….  Youth employees make great ambassadors for your company or organization.  Through word-of-mouth, they spread goodwill about your company or organization through their family, friends, teachers and classmates.

2.) Customer Service….  Your customers appreciate the energy that youth employees offer in your business or organization – youth can provide great customer service in retail stores, restaurants, medical and veterinarian offices, parks, museums, city halls, tourism offices, chamber of commerce offices and more.

3.) Projects!  How often do you wish you could focus attention on a special project that needs to be done?   An interesting project can make a good learning experience for a semester-long or year-long internship.

4.) A Boost to Your Own Productivity and Creativity.   Having an intern can be a boost to your own creativity and productivity.  As you engage in your own work, you can guide your intern through the process and assign them some supporting tasks.  You often learn the most when you are teaching others, and as you teach a youth about your work, you will be surprised at how much you discover or re-discover about your own work.

5.) Youth Voice. Youth employees can lend youth voice to your business or organization, allowing you and your staff to informally  gather ideas and perspectives that help you shape your marketing, merchandising, production and programming initiatives.

6.) Connecting with Your Community.  Hiring youth through a job or internship program in your city or town helps you to connect with the local school, Chamber of Commerce, School to Career program or other networks, and to enhance the image of your company or organization within the community.

7.) Investing in Your Industry.  By providing first jobs in your industry, you are helping youth to learn about career options and you are investing in the future of your industry locally and beyond.

When you hire youth through a local School-to-Career/Connecting Activities job or internship program, you are assured that the program staff will provide orientation to the youth, providing coaching in key communication skills, customer service skills and other workplace skills.   Youth employment programs in Massachusetts use the Massachusetts Work-Based Learning Plan to provide structure, outline key skills and provide feedback to students to ensure a successful work experience.

The Mosaic Economy – Part II – Career Exploration & “Telling Stories”

Mosaic EconomyOver the past year or so, I have been working on a book called “The Mosaic Economy” — now available through Harvard Bookstore (paperback) and Amazon (e-book).  The Mosaic Economy looks at the way different pieces come together, like the pieces of a mosaic, to create a mosaic of jobs and opportunities.  The emphasis is on the real, sometimes less-than-perfect, paths that people take to create their careers, the values that shape people’s careers, and the constant flow of discovery and re-discovery of different types of work. 

One emphasis in this book is on “telling stories” — using real stories about people and their jobs, along with statistics, history and other analysis to take a fresh look at the job market.

Link to The Mosaic Economy (ebook) on Amazon
Link to The Mosaic Economy (paperback) through Harvard Bookstore

Telling Stories  

When I was in college I attended a retirement party for an economics professor, a woman who had entered the economics field when it was unusual for women to do so. “I knew I wanted to be an economist,” she explained, “when I was a little girl and traveled with my family. Whenever we went through a town I would ask ‘I wonder what people do for a living here?’”

She would have observed that some towns were surrounded by sprawling farms, with a grain mill or feed store in the center of town; other towns had a mill in the town center, with mill worker housing circled around; other towns had a stately courthouse and busy retail district; other towns might have a college or university that provided the economic focal point.

Now, several decades later, in many towns and cities, the visual cues of farms and mills may no longer provide an answer, and instead the question calls for gathering individual stories, clues from history, statistics and other analyses to get a picture of what people do for a living.

Bread and Roses strike in Lawrence MA

By telling stories, looking at history and digging into economic statistics, we get a fresh look into jobs, career values and career paths. The concept of a mosaic economy suggests the many ways that different bits and pieces come together to make a coherent whole.

Early in the 1980s I was teaching economics in a local two-year college, and took a group of young college-aged women on a tour of the Lowell Heritage Park, in Lowell, Massachusetts, a park that celebrates the history of Lowell’s textile mills and canals. The tour was part of a unit on economic history, an exploration of the long-term evolution of the U.S. economy from agriculture to manufacturing to a service-oriented economy.

As part of the economic history unit, I had presented statistics showing that in the late 1700s and early 1800s when the country was new, about four out of five workers in the United States worked in agriculture. Relatively few worked in manufacturing and relatively few were in service sector jobs – with teachers, doctors, ministers and shopkeepers as examples. As the industrial revolution began in the early 1800s, the number of people working in agriculture decreased, reflecting rising agricultural productivity, while the number working in both manufacturing and services increased. Manufacturing employment as a percent of total employment peaked in the 1920s. Throughout the rest of the century, employment in manufacturing began to give way to more service-sector employment, and by the 1980s when I was teaching this class, and even more so now, the majority of workers in the United States worked in service-sector jobs.

The Lowell Offering was a publication by and for the Lowell "Mill Girls" -- the first generation of workers in Lowell's factories.

The Lowell Offering was a publication by and for the Lowell “Mill Girls” — the first generation of workers in Lowell’s factories.

During the Lowell mill tour, the tour guide explained that when the mills first opened, they employed a generation of “mill girls” who came from New England farms. The mill girls were young women who were not needed on their family farms any more in an era of increasing farm productivity, and were sent, or went seeking adventure, to the brand-new mills of Lowell to work. There, they lived in dormitories and participated in book clubs, discussion groups and other cultural events in the evening, after working for twelve hours or more each day in the mills.

“They were our age!” my students exclaimed in amazement, as we toured the dormitories and heard the guide retell their stories.

A generation later, the tour guide went on to explain, the mill workers were mostly immigrants from Ireland, Italy, Greece and other parts of Europe, marking a new chapter in industrial history. We heard about the struggles of mill workers for better pay, hours and working conditions and about the technology shifts that helped the mills to thrive and later to decline. Lowell now has relatively few mills, but has a thriving arts culture, several minor league sports teams, proximity to high tech companies and an eclectic mix of other jobs.

The story of the Lowell mill girls energized our subsequent classroom discussions of economic history, providing a  frame for understanding the way job markets shift from one decade to the next.

What stories do you see in your local, state and national economy?   You may see an eclectic mix of jobs in technology, arts and culture, health, education, restaurants and retail trade.  You may see a revitalization of manufacturing and production.  You may see a rediscovery of artistanal production and organic methods of agriculture.  In a mosaic economy, a diverse set of jobs come together to create an economic picture, just as different colorful bits and pieces of ceramic come together in a mosaic to make a coherent whole. The idea of a mosaic suggests that it is always possible to look at the economy in different ways, allowing different pictures and stories to emerge.