As summer comes to a close, Henrico County’s internship program has successfully hosted high school and undergraduate students this summer leading to the County being recognized as a 2023 Top Virginia Employer for Interns.
Under the guidance of Debbie Lumpkin, Internship Program Coordinator, the program began in the summer of 2012. Since then, the number of students participating in Henrico internships has increased exponentially yearly. This year, interns have come from as near as local Henrico high schools to as far as universities across the East Coast.
The internship program is about giving students “opportunities to open their eyes to the ways in which county employees serve the community,” said Mrs. Lumpkin. “I always recommend to a student that the more you put in, the more you get out,” she said. The program focuses on “teaching people how to work, what is expected at work, [and] how to communicate,” among many other skill sets.
Interns work on various projects within their departments while gaining professional business skills. David Sacks, Community Development Manager, explains how his interns participate in the office. It is “very common for interns to develop the annual action plan,” and “we’ll have an intern working with us to develop the annual report.” The intern’s role is to manage the department throughout these projects. “I teach them to be a project manager,” said Mr. Sacks.
In the County Manager’s office, intern Sincere Slade-Reading, has had the chance to explore multiple avenues of work. She explained that her typical day could consist of “brainstorming with deputy county managers, spending time in the Varina community with Supervisor Nelson, attending committee meetings, or researching solutions to Henrico issues.” Throughout the summer, “the ability to advocate for myself, manage projects, and form connections that … will not only make me a better student but also put me ahead in my planned future career in law,” said Ms. Slade-Reading.
Chance Phillips, the budget office’s intern, echoed these sentiments. He said, “I’ve definitely had and appreciated the opportunity to develop my professional communication skills and the general skills and habits required to work in an office environment.” In addition to his strengthened skillsets, Mr. Phillips said he “enjoyed the ability to become acquainted with everyone working in the Budget office the most.”
The internship program provides a space for interns and supervisors to engage and create connections. Senior Victim Specialist Nicole Mayton was once a County intern herself and said that the program is “a chance to see different perspectives.” While hosting students, “I enjoy being able to share with interns and like to see them learn … and see how it impacts them,” she said.
In many departments, this summer has been filled with meaningful learning for interns and supervisors. Now is the time to start thinking about your workload, projects, and ability to mentor a student for upcoming semesters. Please submit your request to Debbie Lumpkin by September 30 for spring 2024 interns and by December 1 for summer 2024 interns.
For many years, Henrico County has supported students and provided opportunities for them to learn, grow, and develop. In 2019, we partnered with Cristo Rey Richmond High School. This Catholic learning community educates young people of limited economic means to become men and women of faith, purpose, and service. Through a rigorous college preparatory curriculum, integrated with a relevant work study experience, they graduate ready to succeed in college and life. Students are required to participate in a corporate work study program that pairs them with a business or organization where they work one day a week instead of attending classes.
The Work Study Program centers on strengthening students’ competence, confidence, and aspiration from families of limited economic means and empowering them to build fulfilling lives that advance the common good. By providing students with an outstanding college preparatory education and a unique four-year, integrated corporate work study experience, we seek to transform Richmond one student at a time.
As a founding partner in 2019, Henrico County sponsored a team of four students whose opportunities were cut short due to Covid-19. However, we continued to support the students through virtual mentoring workshops until pandemic restrictions were lifted. In September 2022, Henrico County was able to sponsor a team of 4 students with in-person experiences. However, many employers could not provide opportunities as their offices could not accommodate students. Henrico stepped up to provide workplaces for 14 additional students in many departments such as Community Corrections, Emergency Management and Workplace Safety, Fire, Human Resources, General Services, Public Utilities, Recreation and Parks, General District Courts, and Economic Development Authority. On June 23, Cristo Rey recognized Henrico County as “Partner of the Year” for our support and dedication to the program.
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
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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 804-501-7206. September 31 is the deadline for Spring 2021 internships and November 1 is the deadline for Summer 2021 internships.
Has the COVID-19 pandemic created new projects on top of your normal work duties? With a larger to-do list on your plate, please consider hiring a student for academic credit.
Interns may be able to assist you with documenting changes within your department, creating manuals, making updates and marketing materials, and more. We can advertise your opportunities to new candidates, or you can select from a great pool of current summer intern applicants from a variety of college programs. Many students are eager for summer opportunities to satisfy academic requirements, grow their skills and build their professional network. It is a win-win!
If you do not have a need for a summer intern, there are opportunities in the Fall semester as well. Requests for Fall interns are due by June 30.
To collaborate on ways you can use and/or hire an intern to join your team, contact Debbie Lumpkin, Internship Program Coordinator at 501-7206 or email@example.com.