Industry as Teacher: Internships, Business Advisors put the real world in CTE
Posted on 04/03/2018
Industry as Teacher: Internships, Business Advisors put the real world in CTE

By CeCe Todd

In labs, studios and shops, students floss the teeth of a typodont, roll curlers into the hair of a mannequin head, and take apart and put back together an engine. Within the confines of a school, hands-on learning is a vital part of their career and technical education (CTE). But while it's a great simulation for teaching and learning, it’s not real. CTE students only experience the realities of their chosen career when industry becomes the teacher.

“We can teach them. We can do the hands-on. But they have to experience the real deal,” said Dr. Sally Downey, superintendent of Mesa, Arizona’s East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT), a public school providing CTE programs to high school students and adults living in the suburbs east of Phoenix.

Business and industry add some 'real' in EVIT’s CTE programs in a variety of ways. They serve on advisory councils helping teachers to develop curriculum and training that meets the latest industry standards. They come into the classroom as mentors and guest instructors. They provide job shadowing, internships and apprenticeships at actual work sites.

“We’re educators. We don’t know 24/7 what it takes for each workforce," said Downey. "That’s why we have to have the involvement of business and industry."

Three businesses actually operate on EVIT’s Dr. A. Keith Crandell (Main) Campus:  Adelante Healthcare, a community health clinic that provides guidance and clinical experiences for health sciences students; Landings Credit Union, which operates a branch office on campus where banking & financial services students work with the public; and Bright Ideas Childcare, which operates a preschool where aspiring early childhood education students gain experience in working with young children. 

“We have a tangible role with the students and their education,” said James Workman, practice administrator at Adelante. “As we are active participants, we’re able to make sure their training is current and up to date.” And, most importantly for Adelante, the health-care provider is able to ensure it has a pipeline of job candidates who meet its standards and qualifications. Some EVIT alumni currently work for Adelante. “Each time we have externs from EVIT, we try to hire one or two of them,” Workman continued. “There are always stars that shine in that group. Hiring them makes our team stronger.”

EVIT Health Sciences alum working at Adelante Healtcare

The extended classroom
A 2013 report by the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University identified a lack of work-based opportunities as one of several challenges impacting the quality of the state’s CTE programs. According to the report: “Integrating work-based learning and apprenticeships in high schools has been proven to be beneficial for both employers and youth in Europe and Australia. Yet internship programs involving high school students are not systematic in the United States. This makes it more difficult for students to connect with potential employers and more likely to lead to a disconnect between the skills students learn and the skills that employers actually need” (Gupta, 2013). With Arizona and the nation facing a growing gap between the skills students learn and the skills employers want, employers and trade associations need to be more engaged in creating work-based opportunities. 1

Downey maintains internships and other work-based opportunities start with a robust industry advisory council at the CTE program level. “If you don’t have that, you’re operating in a vacuum,” she said. “Industry becomes an extension of the classroom.”

Mike McAfee, director of education for the Arizona Auto Dealers Association, agreed. McAfee has advised EVIT’s automotive technologies, collision repair and diesel technologies programs for many years. “We’ve had to knock on a lot of doors,” he said of efforts to recruit industry for advisory councils and work-based learning. 

The result is a comprehensive system created by industry and EVIT instructors over the years to immerse automotive students in job shadowing opportunities and internships. “We like to get the students behind the yellow line, so they can see what it's really like,” McAfee said. “We want to know if they’re really interested or if they just signed up for the class because their buddy is taking it. We call it a three-day job interview.”

From the job-shadowing event, employers identify automotive students who are good candidates for internships that often lead to employment. Learning continues on the job, where students are mentored and encouraged to continue their education beyond high school in one of several community college automotive programs. 

By the end of their job shadowing and internships, students have a clearer picture of what they want to pursue. McAfee recalled that one of EVIT’s automotive students excelled working at an auto dealership and got her community college degree – but eventually decided to go to Arizona State and major in engineering. “That’s why internships are so important for students,” he said.

EVIT Welding alum Rhett Davis, 21, had a similar experience. After completing a welding internship for Salt River Project, he realized he’d rather be a journeyman lineman for the power and water utility and is now working for SRP as an apprentice. “Getting an internship at SRP was a great opportunity to build my experience and see all the careers firsthand and see all the different trades,” he said.

EVIT Cosmetology with Rolfs Salon

Employability Skills
In August of 2016, Landings Credit Union opened a branch campus at EVIT, launching the school’s new banking and financial Services program, which prepares students for jobs as tellers, loan officers, call center representatives and other positions in the banking industry. The students receive hands-on training in cash handling, marketing and running a full-service branch bank. They also get plenty of experience in working with the public and honing their employability skills. "That’s the majority of what we’re doing here,” said branch manager and instructor Tonya Fife.

In a 2015 report, analytics software company Burning Glass Technologies found that “baseline skills” accounted for more than 25 percent of skills requested in job ads posted for technical careers ("The Human Factor," 2015). While some skills are universally in demand by all industries, many vary widely from one occupation to the next: “For example, design jobs emphasize writing, creativity, and attention to detail; but place less emphasis on customer service or management skills. By contrast, Operations jobs are more likely to demand project management, supervisory, or problem-solving skills” ("The Human Factory, 2015). 2

Employability skills identified as priorities by EVIT’s industry partners also vary, but generally include basic math and writing skills, ability to use basic software programs, a strong work ethic, and the ability to work as a team and communicate. Interacting with the public through work-based learning is key to developing those skills – and often an eye-opening experience for students who don’t realize how important those skills are. 

Seville Veterinary Hospital advises EVIT’s veterinary assistant program and often places students in externships at its Gilbert, Arizona, facility. By the time students are ready to be an extern, they have learned animal anatomy and physiology, hands-on skills and advanced assisting concepts. At Seville and other animal shelters, vet facilities and equine centers they have the opportunity work more closely with dogs, cats, horses and other pets. What they don’t realize until they extern is just how much they will be working with people. Gary Espinoza, Seville practice manager,  said the interaction with pet owners is often an eye-opening and difficult process for veterinary assistant students, especially when a much-loved pet has to be euthanized. “That’s one of the hardest things for students to learn,” Espinoza said.

At the EVIT Academy of Cosmetic Arts, cosmetology and aesthetics students are also learning that the skill set they will need extends beyond the technical. Every day, they interact with public clients who pay for hair styling, nail services and skin care. All services are provided by the students under the direct supervision of licensed cosmetology instructors. But this year, the students are also learning how to provide an enhanced experience for clients. Rolf’s Salon, a high-end salon with several locations in the Phoenix area, sends master instructors to work with EVIT students once a week. Francis Tesmer, CEO and co-owner of Rolf’s, maintains the beauty industry needs to be re-energized – and that transformation starts with how cosmetologists and aestheticians are being trained. “We need to give them advanced techniques, teach people skills and personal development, and develop them as leaders,” she said.

EVIT Automotive Job Shadowing

You’re hired!
The rewards can be great for students who excel during their internships and other work-based learning opportunities that expose them to potential employers. Tempe Dodge in Tempe, Arizona, got to know Leo Gonzalez while he was an intern, and that led to a full-time job. “I love working here,” Gonzalez, 19, said. “And they gave me the opportunity to start at 16.” Service director Mike Purtle said EVIT students start out making $10 an hour at Tempe Dodge, but can become a technician earning $22 an hour within two to four years. Tempe Dodge has hired about 20 EVIT students over the past 10 years.

Marty Loehr, 21, completed the EVIT veterinary assistant program and an internship at Gilbert’s Val Vista Animal Hospital in 2015. The hospital was so pleased with Loehr that they hired him after graduation and then trained him to move up as a veterinary technician. “The hardest part is getting your foot in the door,” he said. “The majority of the time, people are looking for potential employees that have previous experience. [The internship] opened the door for me.”

Hundreds of businesses in Arizona have opened their doors to EVIT over the years by agreeing to offer internships, externships and apprenticeships for students, according to EVIT Registrar Andrea Macias. They are the result of relationships that Superintendent Downey and EVIT instructors have built over time. In fact, when hiring CTE instructors, EVIT looks for teachers with the leadership and people skills that will allow them to pursue and develop work-based learning opportunities for students.

“It starts with the teacher. They must have a strong advisory council and listen to industry,” Downey said. “We can teach the cognitive theory. The students can practice the hands-on skills in the classroom. But that can never take the place of being out in the real world.”

EVIT Construction with Cemex

CeCe Todd is the public information officer for the East Valley Institute of Technology in Mesa, Arizona. Email her at

This article was originally published as "Industry as Teacher: Internships, Business Advisors Put the Real World in CTE" in the Association for Career and Technical Education's Techniques magazine, Apr. 2018. Republished with permission. 


1 Morrison Institute for Public Policy, Arizona State University. (2013) On the Rise: The Role of Career and Technical Education in Arizona’s Future. Retrieved from

2 Burning Glass Technologies. (2015) The Human Factor: The Hard Time Employers Have Finding Soft Skills. Retrieved from

Industry as Teacher

EVIT does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or sexual orientation in its programs or activities. CTE program offerings include: Arts, Audio/Video Technology & Communications; Auto & Transportation Services; Construction Technologies; Culinary Arts & Hospitality; Education; Engineering; Health Sciences; Human Services; Information Technology; Manufacturing Trades; and Public Safety. For a full listing of programs, go to The lack of English language skills will not be a barrier to admission and participation in EVIT CTE programs. The following employees have been designated to handle inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies: Title IX/Title VII/EEOC Coordinator, EVIT Superintendent, 1601 W. Main St., Mesa, AZ 85201 or call (480) 461-4000, or by email at; Section 504/ADA Coordinator, Tony Niccum, STEPS, 1601 W. Main St., Mesa, AZ 85201, or call (480) 461-4154 or by email

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