Externships Provide Meaningful Work Experiences During School Breaks

NEWS // February 27, 2017

Externships Provide Meaningful Work Experiences During School Breaks

This past fall, CONNECT2Careers (C2C), an initiative of San Diego Workforce Partnership, invited youth and employers to a special training and hiring event at the San Diego Zoo to kick off their 2016-2017 School Break Externship Program.  C2C’s Externship Program is designed to address San Diego’s ongoing skills gap by providing meaningful work experiences that prepare young adults ages 16–24 for in-demand jobs.  The program provides subsidized wages and workforce training for 50 young adults and connects them to local employers to complete two meaningful, short-term work experiences during their winter and spring school breaks. Funds from the County of San Diego’s Community Action Partnership support these paid externships.


C2C’s Externship Program works to empower underserved youth in San Diego’s Metro area to explore the professional world and its diverse opportunities. The initial event held on November 19, 2016, helped jump-start that journey. C2C’s Taryell Simmons led the young adults in an elevator pitch workshop during the first part of the day, which gave them time to get comfortable with presenting themselves to employers. Following lunch, the young adults sat in on a panel with four of the employers hiring for the externship program. The panelists were Hans Gienapp of the San Diego Zoo, Nikiya McWilliams of Jewish Family Services, Lorelei Bunjes of IDW Publishing, and Abegale Colmenar of BioLabs. This panel gave the externship participants a better idea of the work and hiring practices companies engage in.

At the end of the day, youth had the opportunity to meet with all 32 employers during an informal mixer. They gave their elevator pitches to the employers with whom they were interested in working, giving them an opportunity to show professionalism and other essential skills before beginning their externships.

“I had a wonderful time speaking to the students and was very impressed!” said Christina Vassos who was looking for candidates to hire at the Ocean Discovery Institute.


After the initial training and hiring event, C2C worked to match externs with employers and assign work sites before a second training event was held in December designed to prepare participants for their winter break externships. The training focused on career exploration, building communication skills, and learning about workplace expectations. Participants learned about San Diego’s fastest-growing industries and occupations, including San Diego’s five priority sectors: Advance Manufacturing, Information Communication Technology, Life Science, Clean Energy and Health Care. They navigated San Diego Workforce Partnership’s Labor Market Information dashboard to explore the different industry sectors, education expectations and occupational tasks of their desired career pathways. At the end of the workshop, the externs met in small groups to prepare a 3-minute presentation about a particular occupation to share with the rest of the participants.

Participants also had the opportunity to practice communication skills through group activities, reviewed workplace expectations and learned about appropriate workplace attire. The youth also received supportive services from C2C, including a gift card to buy professional clothing and transportation support in the form of either a bus pass or a gift card to cover the cost of a tank of gas.


In December and January, the 50 participants completed their 22-hour winter break externship work experiences.

Externship projects included:

  • Writing two op-ed articles for RISE San Diego and scheduling social media posts for the organization.
  • Creating promotional content for Media Arts Center San Diego’s high school workshops.
  • Researching content for the office of Mayor Kevin Faulconer in preparation for the Mayor’s State of the City address.
  • Evaluating foot traffic for San Diego Outlets at the Border.
  • Transferring music from CDs to an online music library at the Tayari Media Group.
  • Helping clients learn how to use the computers to access work readiness resources at the Public Consulting Group.
  • Researching restaurants in San Diego, CA, Seattle, WA, and San Francisco, CA to update the jobs database at Industry Careers Inc.
  • Helping to package meals at Jewish Family Services’ food pantry for families in the community.

Over 30 employers from a wide variety of sectors participated in this year’s program, including Qualcomm, the Ocean Discovery Institute, Coast Flight Training, the San Diego Airport Authority and the City of San Diego’s Mayor’s Office.


Each of the 50 participants was invited to attend a 2-hour follow up training after completing the winter externships. The group sessions consisted of a facilitated discussion about their winter break externship experiences, which participants used to build their resume during a resume writing workshop.

An extern with Jewish Family Services shared the following about her experience, “I liked knowing that I contributed to making a change in this society while working with a really great company with really amazing people.”

Another extern shared that “this opportunity has motivated her to go to college” so she can work at the United Port of San Diego in the future.

To learn more about CONNECT2Careers, visit