STEP-UP Chattanooga asks businesses to hire area high school students for summer internships

By Staff Report, Chattanooga Times Free Press, January 25th, 2017

Businesses and organizations are asked to step up and hire Hamilton County high school students for summer internships.

Last summer, STEP-UP Chattanooga helped 76 interns gain experience working in a variety of fields, and organizers plan to double the program and help 150 interns find jobs this summer.

The Public Education Foundation, a local education nonprofit organization, launched STEP-UP last year, modeled after the nationally recognized STEP-UP Achieve Minneapolis program that has served more than 20,000 students since 2004. The program tackles the challenges faced by businesses and students in a complex, changing global economy.

The internship provides sophomores, juniors and seniors from low-income households with work readiness training, helping them learn to be successful in interviews and to be professional on the job. During the internship, STEP-UP staff provide the interns with support and feedback.

Jeff Rector, business partner manager for Step-Up Chattanooga, previously told the Times Free Press that the program is designed to allows students to network with people outside of their social circle and develop the soft skills needed in the job market.

“The gist of this program is to give [students] experience and information they typically wouldn’t have the opportunity to get,” Rector said. “There are enough hurdles for students this age, but for this low-income group there seems to be some more hurdles we are hoping to help them take out of the way.”

The businesses and organizations that host interns have the opportunity to form relationships with a talented, diverse pool of future employees, while also filling job vacancies and demonstrating a commitment to improving the lives of at-risk youth, STEP-UP officials said in a statement.

Last summer, the interns earned more than $100,000 in combined income, and 100 percent of the interns said they would participate in the program again if given the opportunity, according to the statement.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation Inc. donated $300,000, and the Benwood Foundation donated $200,000 for the first two years of the program. The City of Chattanooga, Hamilton County, Hamilton County Department of Education, and the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce are also founding partners, according to STEP-UP.

The following businesses, nonprofits and organizations have already signed to participate in STEP-UP this summer:

2nds in Building Materials (Southeastern Salvage), 3H Group Hotels, Application Researchers, Bessie Smith Cultural Center, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, Chattanooga Gas, Chattanooga Library, Chattanooga Publishing Company, Chattanooga Renaissance Fund, Chattanooga State Community College, Chattanooga Zoo, Chattem, Inc., City of Chattanooga, Creative Discovery Museum, Electric Power Board (EPB), Elemi Architects, Erlanger Health System, The Enterprise Center, Greenspaces, Habitat for Humanity, Hullco, Lamp Post Properties, MediTract, Merrill Lynch, Newcomb Spring, Northside Neighborhood House, River City Company, Signal Centers, SmartBank, Southeastern Tennessee Development District, SunTrust Bank, Tennessee American Water Co., Tennessee Aquarium, United Way of Greater Chattanooga, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Vayner Media, Vision Hospitality and WRCB-TV

Source: STEP-UP