Posted February 17, 2016 by

Consider these 5 things before choosing a human services internship

 

Dewey Delisle started eight years ago at New England Center for Children (NECC) as an entry-level teacher. Now he finds himself training and managing interns as the Intern Specialist, and has great advice for students seeking a human service internship.

Delisle proved himself capable, loyal, and passionate about working to transform the lives of children with autism worldwide through education, research, and technology. That, in addition to obtaining his Master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis, led him to promotions from within the company over the course of eight years.

Dewey Delisle, Intern Specialist at NECC

Dewey Delisle, Intern Specialist at NECC

Human services internship seekers should consider these five factors when choosing the right opportunity

1. Whether an employer offers the opportunity to convert to full-time status. Delisle lauds the benefits of NECC’s strategy to promote from within and to hire interns who they attempt to retain as full-time employees. He says supervisors who have the ground level experience can be more effective when leading their team.

2. How much training is involved. Since an internship may not last very long, it’s in your employer’s best interest to get you up and running as soon as possible. Delisle says that interns who successfully complete the application, interviewing, and hiring process at NECC are thoroughly trained to do their jobs well and are not simply thrown into positions without adequate preparation.

See: NECC’s company page on CollegeRecruiter.com

Delisile and his team train interns during an intense 3-week period, encompassing both in-classroom and lecture-type formats, covering reinforcement, curriculum implementation, and verbal and physical de-escalation skills. After the 3-week training period is over, on-team supervisors come in to observe and deliver feedback to fine-tune performance to the highest level possible.

3. How much hands-on experience you’ll get. Especially for people who want a career in human services, hands-on experience is critical. For example, NECC places interns in classrooms working directly with 2-3 students, utilizing applied behavior analysis to implement educational curriculum and behavior management guidelines.


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4. How transparent the employer is about what you will be doing. Delisle says that after they review resumes, they actually bring candidates to tour the school so they can directly see the structure and organization of the facilities.

Two children playing with building blocks in kindergarten with a nursery teacher helping

Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock.com

5. How customized the internship can be to your interests. Although many of the interns at NECC perform the same basic duties, their interns gain additional experiences best suited to their individual areas of interest. For example, interns with majors in communication disorders often spend time in the Speech and Language department, observing various speech assessment. Interns with special education backgrounds might sit in on Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings, while interns with behavioral analysis backgrounds might record data on functional analyses.

Delisle’s best advice for internship candidates is to apply early and remain open-minded.

“We will often get inquiries for internships as early as 9 months in advance. In addition to getting in before the deadline, early applications show potential employers that you have a high amount of interest in that particular field.”

Finally, while you should always look around for a variety of internships that fit your needs, don’t automatically dismiss one that doesn’t completely fit your ideal picture of an internship right off the bat. You may be exposed to job responsibilities you weren’t aware even existed and end up having an even better experience than anticipated. Delisle says that he often sees interns come in only wanting to work with 3-5 year-olds, but then they suddenly find themselves working with 18 year-olds instead. Much of the time, “they end up discovering they prefer working with older teens over younger children… something they would have never discovered otherwise!”

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