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Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area


Bridging the Gap: WSRCA Teacher Externship Program Connects Classrooms to Careers

Brian Hernandez
Sep 06, 2023
Posted by: Brian Hernandez

Bridging the Gap: WSRCA Teacher Externship Program Connects Classrooms to Careers

In today's rapidly evolving job market, preparing students for successful careers is more critical than ever. Traditional teaching methods may not always align with the skills and knowledge required in the real world. To address this gap, Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area (WSRCA) has initiated a groundbreaking program known as the Teacher Externship Program, which connects classrooms to careers. This innovative initiative has been made possible thanks to partnerships with the Texas Workforce Commission, chambers of commerce, independent school districts, and numerous participating employers across the nine-county region. Over the years, this program has made a significant impact on educators, students, and the local business community.

This week, we had the opportunity to help celebrate the 2023 Teacher Externship Program with participating educators from Bastrop ISD, who leveraged externships with local employers this summer into new lesson plans and opportunities for area students.  Thank you to our partners at Bastrop ISD, the Bastrop Chamber of Commerce, and our many participating employers for helping us provide Rural Capital Area educators the opportunity to see classroom content and learning strategies applied in the workplace.

Empowering Educators In Industry

The Teacher Externship Program is a collaborative effort between Rural Capital Area employers, Chambers of Commerce, and Independent School Districts within each county. Its primary aim is to provide middle and high school educators with professional development opportunities that enhance the connection between the classroom and the workforce.

Through this program, educators spend time immersing themselves in various industries, gaining firsthand experience of how classroom content and learning strategies are applied in real workplaces. This unique opportunity allows teachers to bring relevance to their students' learning journeys.

A Transformative Five-Day Experience

The Teacher Externship Program is a structured five-day experience that consists of an orientation, three days of teachers working alongside businesses, and a final presentation day. Since the program's launch several years ago, hundreds of local educators have been matched with area employers each year, leading to increased awareness of local careers in high demand and the training pathways to get there. 

What's particularly impressive is the program's 98% completion rate.

In 2023, we placed 197 educators from 10 area school districts with local employers representing the following industries:

  • Automotive
  • Banking
  • City Council
  • Construction
  • Culinary
  • Engineering/Robotics
  • Film Production
  • Fine Arts
  • Forestry
  • Healthcare
  • Hospitality/Tourism
  • Law Enforcement
  • Real Estate
  • Restaurant Operations
  • Sports Management

How Does the Program Work?

The success of this program hinges on a carefully orchestrated process. ISDs actively recruit teachers to participate, while chambers of commerce seek businesses willing to host workplace opportunities. These entities then match teachers with businesses based on workplace requirements and the teacher's subject matter expertise.

Once matches are made, chambers of commerce and ISDs collaborate with businesses and teachers to tailor each externship experience to the individual. During their three days in the workplace, teachers develop strategies to integrate not only job-based learning but also essential skills into their daily curriculum.

At the program's conclusion, each teacher submits a sample lesson plan demonstrating their newfound strategies and schedules a date to present their learnings to their peers.

The Purpose of the Program

The Teacher Externship Program has a clear and vital purpose: to engage educators in business and industry activities, helping them understand how classroom content and learning strategies apply in real-world workplaces. This, in turn, allows educators to enhance their instructional practices by incorporating skills that meet current industry standards.

Reactions from Participants

The impact of the Teacher Externship Program extends far beyond statistics. Feedback from participants speaks volumes:

From Teachers:

  • "I truly enjoyed my Externship and learned and observed educational material relevant to the courses I teach."
  • "The Externship program is an excellent opportunity to learn more about industries and what the students need to know to be successful."
  • "Externing with the DA's office was extremely rewarding. It allowed me to learn so much about how our Justice System actually works and will be extremely beneficial in my teaching in the coming years."

From Employers:

  • "Our Teacher was excellent to work with and knew exactly what he was looking to learn."
  • "I believe that this was a Win-Win experience. She is a dynamic individual who is truly looking after her students' and her school's best interest."
  • "We will be continuing our professional relationship even after the Externship."

The WSRCA Teacher Externship Program is not just an educational initiative; it's a catalyst for change. By connecting educators with the realities of the workforce, it's creating a generation of students better prepared for future careers. 

Thanks to the commitment of our Rural Capital Area partners, this program is making a tangible difference in the lives of educators, students, and the entire community.

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