Andy Kavanaugh said he always felt confident that what he was teaching his students was going to translate to the real world.
After spending six weeks in an externship program, he said he realized he had a lot more to offer his students.
Kavanaugh, an industrial technology teacher at Fort Dodge Senior High School, spent six weeks this summer working at POET Bioprocessing near Gowrie. The clerkship was part of Iowa’s STEM Teacher Clerkship Program through the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council.
“I feel like now I understand what this industry is like and what I can bring back to my class,” Kavanaugh said. “I would recommend any teacher looking to grow to find a place to do something like this. Teachers can see if there is something suitable for their class. I realized there were some things I could do differently because that’s what these companies want.
Kavanaugh said he spent a lot of time observing, but really got a lot out of it. The main reason he couldn’t be more active, he said, is that he didn’t have the safety training for many POET machines. He said it was something he realized would benefit his class.
“They have standard operating procedures (SOPs) and job hazard analysis, which I had never heard of,” Kavanaugh said. “Those are the two most important things I took away from this. I thought about how I could integrate them into my class. Everything is so safety oriented there. These are things that I decided to do in my class.
Kavanaugh said that because of day school, he emphasizes safety in his classrooms. He lectures on metals and welding, so the students use a lot of machines and tools.
“Sometimes you look at something quite simple, like wearing safety glasses and the kids will laugh at it,” Kavanaugh said. “I feel like I tried to tell kids that this is how so many accidents happen. I was wearing safety glasses, steel toe boots and a hard hat and still almost ran into things.
Kavanaugh said he’s also heard a lot from POET employees that potential employees lack soft skills, something he’s also increasingly trying to incorporate into his courses.
“A lot of places tell people we can train you for any job,” Kavanaugh said. “They are looking for people who will show up every day and have a good attitude.
“There are plenty of good jobs available for people who want them,” Kavanaugh said. “Companies will teach all the skills that someone lacks. They just need people to show up every day.
Kavanaugh said he also hopes to be able to continue a working relationship with the companies where he has completed internships. He also completed an internship with Central Iowa Building Supply and C&S Products Co. Inc. Both internships lasted one week.
“It’s cool to see how we can help fill some of these jobs and they’re more than willing to help out if we need certain things,” he said. “I enjoyed my time there. It’s interesting to see how the industry is changing. There are good paying jobs. Some are available right out of high school if that’s what a student wants to do.
The externship program through the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council has been in place since 2009. Nearly 300 companies across the state have participated in the program according to the advisory council’s website. 77 companies participated this year.
External STEM teachers are expected to work 200-240 hours for the external host, typically beginning in June and ending in July for five to six weeks full-time. Hosts of external STEM teachers are often flexible in adjusting work schedules to meet the needs of their external STEM teachers.
More information can be found at https://iowastem.org.