Before Tracy Lopez started her internship at the WorkNet Center in Lodi, she wasn’t sure what career field she was interested in.
“When I came here, I didn’t know what this was,” she said. “It was the luck of the draw.”
Lopez found the internship through the CalWORKS Welfare-to-Work program. For a year, she has been organizing activities for families, working with the mobile food bank and finding her passion. When her internship ends later this year, Lopez says she wants to take the necessary steps to continue in social services and even start her own non-profit.
For Lopez, an internship gave her direction in life. While internships are not a necessity in the job market, they are a way to gain much needed experience and find out if a field is right for you.
Interns may be the ones who seem desperate for work experience, but many employers also benefit from the extra, often free, employee.
Assemblywoman Alyson Huber’s offices in Lodi and Rancho Cordova hire interns regularly. Instead of paying them, the students earn class credit. Chief of staff Tim Reardon says many interns — often government and political science majors — end up moving on to jobs at the capitol or in other government offices.
“They’ve all really done well,” he said. “We try to give them opportunities to learn and move forward.”
This week, Galt City Council approved an internship position for Mariah Franco, who will be a junior at Galt High School in the fall.
Galt Mayor Barbara Payne organized the internship and hopes that with Franco’s involvement in school and on the youth council, there will be a stronger connection between the City Council and the school. A portion of Payne’s traveling funds will go to pay Franco because Payne believes “it’s worth it.”
The City of Lodi engineering division of public works has also been benefiting from interns for about 12 years.
Nathan Spay is the current San Joaquin Delta College intern who gets paid by the city for part-time work helping with traffic counts, surveying and drafting.
Public Works Director Wally Sandelin says the city has wrapped up the application process for a summer internship to work on the water meter project.
While many interns flawlessly adapt to the flow of an office, there are some intern-business connections that don’t always work out.
You might thank Facebook. Cell phones. Attitude. Or just plain work ethic. But Janelle Lopez, recruiter for Blue Ribbon Personnel Services in Lodi, says interns need to remember to be professional and take initiative.
“They need to learn to put cell phones away — don’t even take them to the job site,” she said. “Then, employers want to see initiative taken.”
Lodi Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Pat Patrick, who had five interns as part of WorkNet’s stimulous-funded intern program in 2009, says open communication between interns and an employer is key.
“If you are a business, be very specific in your mind with what you want the intern to do and give them clear-cut instructions so they have the best chance of meeting your work instruction,” he said.
Reardon says Huber’s office has always had successful interns because they aren’t “just interns.” They hire students who have a general interest in their field and have a desire to make a difference. In the office, Reardon says everyone works together to answer phone calls from constituants and to follow bills. Also, he says employers need to take the time to work with interns and give them a chance to know your office and business.
“Don’t just make them answer the phones. We have a lot of very smart young people out there who pick it up really fast,” Reardon said. “If they’re at all interested, help them find an opportunity.”
Contact Lodi Living Editor Lauren Nelson at email@example.com.