The staff of the Corporate Work Study Program is charged with guiding first generation, future professionals into the world of work for the first time. Placing students with 70 different business partners to work for 100 unique supervisors demands something quite different from traditional on-boarding.
Each summer, Cristo Rey St. Martin freshmen spend weeks in training – covering everything from how to introduce yourself, to the basics of MS Excel, to business terms, to how to write an email and to the core goals of each student’s business department assignment.
Always looking for ways to further refine and improve their program, the Corporate Work Study staff identified a deficiency – the inherent reduction of contact with the students as they begin working at the client site.
The 90 Day Check-In
In response to this deficit, innovative workshops were developed to help the students fix attention on mindset development, expectation setting, and community building. Students revisit key training ideas and identify challenges that need follow up – all of which the CWSP staff believes adds context to the student’s working experience.
Michelle Mehlis, director of the CRSM’s work study program, believes that the 90 Day Check-In is a critical segment, pointing out that, “Work typically has significantly less structure than a classroom environment. In addition to being the youngest person in the office, typically our student is the only person in the office who hasn’t gone to college, has experienced economic scarcity, and/or is a person of color.”
The workshops cover quite a bit of ground. There are one-on-one coaching sessions during which students describe their experiences and receive feedback on how to problem solve.
Fifteen minute mini-lessons are held on “What is Social Capital and Why Is It Important?” Students sit in a circle and describe their first few months on the job. Insights are shared as to how well each placement is going and how successful they have been building relationships at their new places of employment. These sessions offer the students definable actions that help them feel a sense of control.
There are even games of “Jeopardy” that reinforce business vocabulary (WHAT IS SUPPLY CHAIN?) and re-visit what was learned during the summer about “thinking like an employee.”
The Corporate Work Study staff adopts a coaching mentality, listening to the student articulate their experience and focusing completely on helping them. These actions remind the students that Cristo Rey St. Martin is 100% invested in their success.
This type of holistic approach to early career development is unique, especially at the high school level. Ms. Mehlis added, “When students are writing thank you cards to their supervisors, they are practicing both writing and emotional intelligence. This builds their awareness of how many things beyond their ‘occupation’ contribute to their professional success, admission to college and their path to becoming a person of faith.”