LEF: The Upside of Taking on a Student Intern (or 2) This Summer

By Danielle Nadler, Loudoun Education Foundation

Ask any tech industry professional in Northern Virginia and they’ll tell you: hiring ain’t easy.

Virginia has more than 30,000 unfilled computer science positions. That’s thousands of well-paying jobs ready for the taking, if only qualified people would come along. Business leaders in Loudoun County have called the tech talent gap one of their top concerns and biggest obstacles to growing their business.

But there’s a group of educators working on a solution—and, what’s more, they’re inviting leaders of local businesses, large and small, to get involved and lend a hand.

The Loudoun Education Foundation got good news on this front in 2020, when the Growth and Opportunity in Virginia, aka GO Virginia, a statewide economic development initiative based in Richmond, awarded it a $2.4 million grant to fund the Virginia K-12 Computer Science Pipeline initiative. The money helped create a comprehensive computer science program for public school systems in Loudoun County and Chesapeake. The grant funds grades 6-12, and each school system has provided the funding to expand the program down to the elementary level.

The program is designed as a true pipeline, starting in kindergarten and leading toward graduates who are prepared to meet the needs of the growing tech workforce. Computer science concepts are integrated into every subject area for elementary students. In the middle school and high school levels, students have the option to take standalone computer science courses, including Robotic Design, Programming and Software Design.

And one of the key pieces of the Virginia K-12 Computer Science Pipeline is the internships high school students can experience in their junior or senior year. As part of the grant funding, Loudoun County Public Schools must work with the business community to create 275 internships for students by 2022.

To stay on track, Kristina Lee, the district’s Computer Science Experiential Learning coordinator, is working to place 150 students from Loudoun and Chesapeake in internships this summer.

“These internships are a chance for students to see up close what a career in the tech industry looks like. It’s about authentic, real-world lessons that they can’t get in the classroom,” Lee said. “The internships are also a win for the companies. It’s a chance to build relationships with potential future hires and to invest in their future workforce.”

The internships can be as few as 20 hours during the school year, or 140 hours during the summer. They can be virtual or in person; paid or unpaid. Consider what might work for your company, and help equip students to be tomorrow’s tech industry leaders.

Interested in taking on an intern or two? Contact Kristina Lee at kristina.lee@lcps.org.

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