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STEM students land internships - Odessa American: News

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STEM students land internships

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Posted: Friday, October 4, 2019 4:17 pm

The University of Texas Permian Basin STEM Academy is connecting 11th-grade students with biomedical and engineering internships before they graduate high school.

STEM Academy students Ricky Cabello and Tye Sikes have been paired with Ref-Chem for the school year to learn the fundamentals of engineering, project management and construction.

Ref-Chem provides heavy industrial construction, maintenance and engineering services.

Cabello said the engineering track suits him well since mathematics is a subject he enjoys. He said many of his family members pursued careers in engineering, including his father who is a mechanical engineer.

“The internship a good learning experience,” Cabello said. “I’m still kind of seeing what I want to do.”

Ref-Chem Project Manager Jason Ray oversees some of the students’ training and tasks during the roughly 12 hours Cabello and Sikes spend at their paid internship throughout the week.

The two students began their journey after Labor Day and started off just as any other Ref-Chem employee would, which meant completing a web-based training to have a better understanding of expectations and workplace jargon.

Ray said he views it as his responsibility to make sure the students leave the internship with life skills like public speaking and interpersonal skills that they can take into any career.

“We’re going to get them involved in some of our daily activities, whether that is project meetings or weekly updates with clients to have them get a feel for what it’s like to be in a business setting,” Ray said. “When they graduate high school and they’re in college and they’re thinking about a career, I feel like they’ll have a leg up.”

Ref-Chem President Jeff Rashall said the company is extending an opportunity for the interns to learn how to read and interpret drawings and understand some of the technical aspects behind an engineering job at a very young age.

“We really believe in supporting the community and supporting the STEM Academy,” Rashall said. “We want to support hands-on learning for young individuals.”

Principal Cody Griffin said adding internships to the curriculum grounds students in authentic learning opportunities and ensures the charter school remains an active participant in the state’s T-STEM designation process.

Texas Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (T-STEM) secondary schools focus on improving instruction and academic performance in science and mathematics-related subjects and work to increase the number of students who study and enter STEM careers, UTPB STEM Academy’s website stated.

“We’re a T-STEM campus, which is a special designation by the state, and part of that designation is these internship processes,” Griffin said.

The Texas Internship Challenge has also created a push for more paid internship opportunities to be made available to Texas high school and college students. The challenge is a partnership between the Texas Workforce Commission, Texas Education Agency and The Higher Education Coordinating Board to link students with mentors and industry knowledge.

“I can speak from experience,” Ray said. “If I would have had a program like this when I was in high school, I think it would have benefited me tremendously.”

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