No Substitute for Experience

August 1st, 2015

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

Although there is debate as to who first said these words, no one can dispute the truth in them. At Nextech, this quote not only inspires us but is also the driving force behind our goal to offer work-based learning programs that bridge the gap between classroom learning and real-world application.

Last week, we wrapped up our first such program – a six-week paid internship for local high school students that armed them with the skills needed to tackle real-world technology projects. The program took students with various levels of technical skills and taught them the fundamentals of web design and development. Students were then paired with either a nonprofit whose website needed a refresh, or, in some cases a nonprofit that didn’t even have a website. Employed at a rate of $7.35 per hour, students played the role of full service consultant and executed a complete discovery, design, development and delivery process.

On paper, the 6-week program was designed to teach students some highly employable technical skills and then provide an environment to apply those skills to real-world projects. It quickly became evident though that the experience was about much more than that. As students worked alongside their clients, they quickly realized the intrinsic value of using their skills to help a nonprofit harness the power of technology in ways they might not otherwise be able to afford.  No one summed up this sentiment better than Susanna McVay, a Nextech intern who tackled a complete overhaul for the Catherine Peachey Fund.

“I picked up technological skills from the internship. But what meant the most was knowing I did a good thing by helping a nonprofit save some money and put a little more money towards breast cancer research,” said McVay. “I’d like to think I saved a life or two by saving the nonprofit the money they would have paid someone else to make this site.”

Working alongside experienced instructors, volunteer mentors and nonprofits, the students developed competencies critical for success in and out of the classroom, including problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity, and innovation. The fact that they learned some highly sought after technical skills is the icing on the cake.

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