High School Interns Gain Hands-on Business Experience

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    In today’s competitive job market, more and more organizations are looking for entry-level job candidates that have prior work experience and training. But that doesn’t mean students have to wait until college before taking on a summer internship. Many high school students are forgoing summers spent sleeping in for an opportunity to gain valuable work experience with companies like Comerica Bank.

    Six students from the Detroit Public Schools have spent time this summer working in various Comerica departments including Business Affairs, Information Systems, Small Business, Wealth Management, Insurance and more.

    Business Affairs Assistant Rhonda Dunigan plays a role in ensuring the students have a positive experience while at Comerica. She says the students are given opportunities to work on a number of projects including everything from research and database management to event planning and communications support.

    “It is a mutually beneficial relationship and we want to make sure the students are getting the best possible experience while they’re here,” said Dunigan. “The interns were able to work on and complete several projects for our department during their assignment. And, as they enter into their careers, the experience they’ve gained should give them an advantage over other candidates.”

    Comerica Bank Vice President of Client Production Services Bobby Burton also plays a role in the development of students. Burton serves as chair of the Golightly Career and Technical Center’s advisory board and oversees a team of interns working in Comerica’s Information Systems department. He believes early exposure to the corporate world is crucial in keeping students on the path toward career success.

    “These interns all plan to become IT professionals and their experience with Comerica will be very impressive on college applications and future job applications,” said Burton. “I would really encourage parents to have their sons and daughters that are interested in technology take a look at the Golightly program.”

    Students in grades 10 and 11 can apply to attend Golightly Career and Technical Center for two years. The center offers 16 different programs that provide career training for jobs to match a student’s interests and abilities. Program opportunities include finance, tourism, law enforcement, communications, hospitality and much more.

    Students are also exposed to practical training, scholarships, financial aid and an overall cooperative education experience. Candidates for the Golightly programs are selected based on classroom performance, extracurricular activities and an interview.

    Burton’s Golightly interns are an extension of Comerica’s IT help desk and have the opportunity to work in the bank’s Field Support group, handle equipment, assist with troubleshooting and more. He says they are treated like any other employee at the company.

    “We definitely give them a taste of their future career,” said Burton.

    Outside of the Information Systems department, three additional interns have been busy working with Comerica this summer. Cierra Stokes, Antashe Howard and Le’Reice Gordy received internships at Comerica through the bank’s partnership with the Detroit Summer Finance Institute (DSFI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing meaningful internship experiences for high-achieving Detroit high school students.

    DSFI introduces students to the business sector through internships with local businesses, national and global corporations, governmental agencies and nonprofits. The organization also helps students prepare for the college application process by providing references, assisting with résumés and sharing information regarding scholarships and financial aid.

    The goal of DSFI is to expose students to on-the-job experience in professional environments so they gain an awareness of what working will be like after college. These experiences provide an opportunity for students to understand the responsibilities, pressures and sense of accomplishment from a job well done. It also helps to grow their interest, expand their knowledge and gain experience that can be highlighted on their resumes.

    Suzanne Shank, president and CEO of Siebert Brandford Shank & Co., L.L.C. , who founded DSFI in 2000, says she created the program because she wished she’d been exposed to more opportunities in the business world when she was a student.

    “When I was young I wasn’t exposed to Wall Street and the world of finance until I got to business school, which was much later than all of my peers,” said Shank.

    Young people in our area don’t get the daily exposure to the securities industry the way students in other large cities such as New York are exposed, and I wanted to try to change that.”

    Shank says Detroit has several financial institutions — such as her firm, Siebert Brandford Shank, and Comerica Bank — and she wanted to provide this type of opportunity for students here.

    “For students who have a great aptitude in math and are well suited for these types of positions, it’s a missed opportunity if we don’t give them exposure to these industries,” said Shank. “At DSFI we work to give our students hands-on experience, mentor them and help them develop relationships that can serve them well when they go to look for future internships or even permanent jobs.”

    Shank added that the interns have a reputation of being very high-performing and that many organizations call to request DSFI interns each summer.

    “We tend to pick very highly capable students,” said Shank.

    DSFI depends on the support of sponsors in order to meet its mission. All proceeds raised go directly toward student programming and fees. Comerica Bank has served as a corporate sponsor of DSFI since its inception.

    With changes in the economy and limitations of available jobs, Shank says the program is working to combat a shortage of qualified candidates for high-skill positions. She adds that she hopes the students will return to Detroit for work after college. .

    “We hope that this program has a meaningful impact on the students and that they will eventually come back to our city to launch their careers,” said Shank. “But even if they go on to other cities, they will help us build a legacy of Detroiters who go on to do great things.”

    Candidates for DSFI are reviewed based on grade point average, extracurricular activities, references and an application essay.

    For information on internships available through the Golightly Career & Technical Center or the Detroit Summer Finance Institute, students should contact their school counselor.

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