Vermont Labor Department grant-funded Career Cab program gets student interns to job sites

Thanks to a Vermont Labor Department grant and Career and Internship Center Assistant Director Jim Graves’ efforts, internship-bound students at Norwich will have a ticket to ride.

Beginning this spring semester, students who have no vehicle on campus will be able to participate in internships with local Vermont employers through a Career Cab ride program, funded by a $20,000 Vermont Labor Department Workforce Education and Training Fund Internship Program grant, landed Dec. 12 by Graves and Sponsored Programs Director Mina Peshavaria.

The grant covers the 2020 calendar year and continues a gas mileage reimbursement program Norwich joined in 2008. This is the sixth Vermont Labor Department grant supporting Norwich student intern transportation; in all, the department has granted about $158,000 toward the Norwich internship program.

About 25 carless Norwich University student interns are expected to benefit from Career Cab, which will make Norwich’s five passenger vans, complete with a work-study funded driver, available for rides.

“The amazing thing is that we had requested $18,500 for this program from the Labor Department but they funded us for $20,000,” Peshavaria said. “This demonstrates that the department really values what Norwich and especially Jim Graves has been doing for this program over the past several years.”

About 25 carless Norwich University student interns are expected to benefit from Career Cab, which will make Norwich’s five passenger vans, complete with a work-study funded driver, available for rides.

Nicole Navarro, a junior political science major serving as the driver, said she understands internships’ importance and is glad to get students where they need to go, whether Montpelier, Berlin or Barre. A rewarding part of the job, she said, is hearing interns’ stories and job experiences.

“Every time, it’s something different,” said Navarro, who is in the Corps of Cadets. “One intern was from the (Vermont) Chamber of Commerce and told me about all the great networking they had gained … and (how they were) getting to know people of Vermont. A lot of these students come from out of state, so just getting connected within the political system here (in Vermont) is really integral.”

Nicole Navarro, a junior political science major, will serve as driver for the spring 2020 semester’s Career Cab program, which will make Norwich’s five passenger vans available for rides. About 25 carless Norwich University student interns are expected to benefit. (Photo by Mark Collier.)

Grant money will cover Norwich’s cost of operating the vans, which will be scheduled to run throughout the day to job sites in central Vermont or Chittenden County. In previous years, Norwich students have interned at more than 100 sites, mostly in law enforcement, construction, manufacturing, information technology or business services.

Career and Internship director Kathryn Provost said the grant will let Norwich widen the pool of potential interns and improve workforce diversity.

“With transportation challenges removed from the equation, students who previously did not have access to transportation are now able to apply for off-campus internships,” she said. “This will mean greater inclusion for international students or students from lower-socioeconomic households, who do not traditionally have access to transportation, to participate in this tremendous learning opportunity.

“It will also add more diversity to our workforce,” she added, “as employers will have a larger pool of candidates since we have addressed one of the largest barriers to off-campus experiential learning.”

To improve and expand student internship opportunities, Norwich hired an internship coordinator in early 2008. At first, the position was partly funded by the Workforce Education and Training Fund Internship Program grant; it’s now fully funded by Norwich.

Seeing success

Graves said the internship program has flourished.

“In synergy with the cornerstone of experiential learning as a fundamental piece of Norwich University’s overarching educational goal and mission, Norwich University believes that internships enhance and promote education so that students learn skills beyond those gained in the classroom,” Graves said. “Once the students have gained necessary experience with an employer through the internship, the goal is that the student will gain permanent employment with the internship employer or other similar employer, in this case, in Vermont.

“We continue to achieve and show success.”Jim Graves, assistant director, Career and Internship Center

“We continue to achieve and show success,” he added. “This success is measured in the number of students who participate in the internship program and those participants who are exposed to real workplace experiences, expectations, and consequences each semester.”

Importantly, Graves suggested, internships give students real-world experience hunting for, landing and performing in jobs. Every intern, he said, learns skills in job searching; résumé and cover letter creation; and interviewing and orientation.

Once students are hired, Graves said, internships immerse students in the hiring organization’s culture and policies and help them master problem-solving skills including public relations/customer service, coping with deadline pressure, public speaking, teamwork, leadership, time management, listening, writing, research, and electronic information handling.

“It is the goal of the internship program at Norwich,” Graves said, “to put students’ learning into practice and to extend their learning into applied experiences in which students actively participate.”

Gracie Reitzig, a freshman international studies major who’s in the Corps of Cadets, is interning at the aforementioned Vermont Chamber of Commerce as a legislative correspondent, taking meeting minutes and performing other tasks. Because residential freshmen generally can’t have cars on campus, she couldn’t intern without a ride.

“I’m really grateful for this grant,” said Reitzig, who’s from Alaska and is contracted to join the Marine Corps. “I’m able to do my internship, I get to learn about the Vermont Chamber of Commerce and business. I’m thinking about changing my major to international business … (so) I have to know how people interact. And I’m learning about professionalism … there’s a respect there that you have to earn.”

By the numbers

Over the years, Norwich University has built a database of more than 100 Vermont employers that have hired students regularly.

The top 10 internship engagements are as follows:

  • National Life (an insurer and financial service company)
  • PC Construction
  • Hallam ICS (engineering)
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
  • Vermont State Police • Champlain Cable
  • Vermont Government Offices
  • Vermont Agency of Transportation
  • United States Marshals Service
  • Barre City Police Department

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