Internships Build a Talent Pipeline for Our Future Workforce

by Debbie Lumpkin, Internship Program Coordinator, Department of Human Resources; Clayton Fuhrman, Fire Equipment Mechanic, Department of General Services; Cate Clifton, Family Services Specialist, Department of Social Services; Jamie Anderson, Casework Supervisor, Department of Social Services

Many are aware of Henrico County’s award-winning internship program and the partnerships it has with local schools. You may be familiar enough with various Henrico schools or possibly have even seen some of the students working hard around the government center. While there is no doubt that COVID-19 has had an impact on our ability to provide paid internships, the County continues to maintain relationships with many

Accepting the Partnership for the Future Pacesetter Award

learning institutions and can offer opportunities for students to obtain credit in their degree programs. Furthermore, these relationships have proven vital in delivering a pool of talented new employees, especially during these hard times. In fact, Henrico County has hired a total of 53 of our former interns; 15 of which were hired during the last fiscal year.

This year also marks the first time Henrico County has hired a previous high school intern as a full-time employee. Clayton Fuhrman started his internship with the County while attending Glen Allen High School and the Diesel Mechanic program at the ACE Center at Hermitage High school. Clayton completed his internship at the East End Automotive Shop working mostly on school buses and some cars. He shared, “I’ve always loved working with engines and so it was a good fit for me. The guys I worked with helped me along the way teaching me skills and tricks that would later help me succeed to move forward and start my career. My internship prepared me for a unique and special opportunity I would have never

expected, to join Henrico full-time. Henrico Fire was so impressed with my skills and ability to adapt that they hired me as an emergency vehicle technician. I have loved fire engines since I was a little kid and was amazed when I was asked ‘when can you start?’ It comes to show that regardless of where you start, with a little hard work and perseverance you can end up doing something very special.”

Clayton Furhman

The success of our internships does not stop with Clayton. Cate Clifton started her internship at Henrico in August of 2019 as a Master Social Work Intern in the Child Welfare Stipend Program at VCU. Kate shared, “I did not know what to expect, but I had a good feeling about Henrico—the people, the work, and the vibe. I was introduced to everyone in the office and I quickly started to find a groove asking folks what they were doing that day or week and asking to join them. I focused heavily on the foster care and adoption unit and began working closely with this team. I was guided towards being a proficient foster care worker and learning the “Henrico Way”. My supervisor’s open-door policy and her collaborative way of solving staffing issues were invaluable to my sense of belonging. After the nine months I spent interning, I applied and was hired full-time as a Family Services Specialist. I felt prepared to do this work because of the internship; because of the training and the strong relationships built with colleagues.”

Cate went on to say, “Being an intern at Henrico was challenging due to the difficult nature of the work. As a child welfare worker, we are asked to help families solve complex problems that transcend the family system, and in many cases, it is a tall order. Today, I feel like an asset to the children and families with whom I work. I am constantly taking active steps to learn and grow, which is extremely important. I find that open-heartedness is crucial, and this work is best approached with humility and deep regard for the dignity of all families.”

As you can see, internships provide not only professional skills for students but also life skills. It affords students the rare opportunity of self-discovery in the form of career exploration. Their experiences give them a better understanding of what they like and don’t like, along with what they want in their future. The program strives to ensure a balance between the student’s specific learning and career development goals while creating a positive experience for the student. They witness first hand how various roles align with the County’s missions as well as their personal goals, all before graduating high school. Upon graduation, these students are college-ready and career prepared!

Students are not the only ones to benefit and grow with an internship. Their coworkers and supervisors have the opportunity to not only teach a younger generation and watch them flourish but learn from them as well. Clayton mentioned how the mentorship from his colleagues was crucial to his success. Cate’s supervisor, Jamie Anderson summarized her view of Cate’s success: “Cate is someone who brings a great deal of enthusiasm and passion to her work. Getting her feet wet as an intern has been an excellent segue into professional practice and provided a solid foundation for her as a Family Services Specialist.  While jobs in child welfare are highly rewarding, they can come with a high level of stress.  Internships can provide a valuable opportunity to see if you are a fit for a certain job type.  Many of our employees were interns in public social services agencies who had the opportunity to see the work for all that it is and all that it can be and have chosen this as their profession. A true win-win for the individual, County, and our families.”

As we continue to work through this pandemic and grow, we challenge you to help us utilize these students and build a workforce for tomorrow. Interns are a pipeline of talent and provide the opportunity for you to coach, mentor, and mold. Beginning in the Spring, we will also be expanding on our partnership with Cristo Rey and their Work-Study Program. Cristo Rey is a new high school in our area that uniquely serves limited income families to provide a different type of learning experience. Each student takes a full course load of college preparatory classes for four years while participating one day a week in a four-year Corporate Work-Study program. What better way to find your next employee and show the “Henrico Way”? If your department would like to discuss offering an internship, please contact the County’s Internship Program Coordinator, Debbie Lumpkin, at [email protected] or call 804-501-7206. September 31 is the deadline for Spring 2021 internships and November 1 is the deadline for Summer 2021 internships.