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Opportunity Internship Program: Work Experience Opens Doors

The value of work experience in youth development has been well documented. The challenge is how to systematically connect youth with those work experiences.  While in operation, the Opportunity Internship program connected over 600 youth to employers in a five regions in the state. See below and to the right for more information.

Note: This program is currently unfunded. However, you can read about how this program benefited students and employers in five local regions through 2013.




Program Details

The Opportunity Internship Program helped students gain work experience, forging connections between what they're studying at school and the work world. Created in 2009, the program previously operated in five regions of the state. Five-minute video explains the program.

Work-integrated learning experiences can range from in-class presentations by a professional or industry representative to a job shadowing and mentoring to a 90-hour paid internship. The Workforce Board has worked with the Governor’s office and the Legislature to design a statewide work-integrated learning system. Learn more about this policy initiative.

Key Program Features

  • Targets high-demand occupations paying at least $30,000 annually.
  • Internships last at least 90 hours.
  • Connected to guidance and counseling and CTE Programs of Study.
  • Serves low-income public school students grades 10-12; qualify for free-and reduced lunch.
  • Students must be in school to have an internship.
  • Mentoring helps students complete college applications, FAFSA and financial aid applications.
  • High schools encouraged to provide academic credit for internships.

Program targets high-wage, high-demand fields
The idea behind the program was to give students work experience in high-wage, high-demand fields and a direct connection to what they're learning in school. In many cases, the Opportunity Internship Program was tied to Career and Technical Education programs, enhancing CTE career exploration and hands-on learning by taking it to the next level: the workplace.

Students who enrolled in an eligible training or education program within a year of graduating high school could be eligible for the State Need Grant program. Those students who went on to complete a postsecondary program were guaranteed an employer interview, where they were expected to be on time, dress appropriately and answer questions. The program targeted high demand occupations with a starting wage of $30,000 or more annually.

Opportunity Internship funding history
The Opportunity Internship Program was created in 2009 and funded by the state starting January 2012. Previous to that date, the program operated with some federal funding. The Workforce Board administered the $500,000 annual project through a contract with the state's Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). All told, nearly 1,000 students were served by the Opportunity Internship Program since 2009. The program was also included in the 2011 PASS Act, aimed at dropout prevention, among other goals.

Past participating organizations included:

  • Northwest Workforce Council-Skagit, Island, Whatcom, San Juan counties
  • Olympic Workforce Development Council-Kitsap, Clallam, Jefferson counties
  • REACH Tacoma-A non-profit youth-focused community organization
  • Southwest Washington Workforce Development Council-Cowlitz, Clark, Wahkiakum counties
  • Spokane Area Workforce Development Council

Contact: Mike Brennan, mike.brennan@wtb.wa.gov, (360) 709-4616, for more information about this currently suspended program.




Work experience makes a difference in youth success

Students say:


Photo: Valerie Elizondo

"This internship is important. It gives you really big insight. As a teenager, you really don't think about a career just yet. You think about having a weekend job, like the rest of your friends."
Valerie Elizondo
Whatcom County

Watch the video of Valerie's story now.

Employers say:

Photo: Ramon Llanos

"Working at a real company doing the real work will really give you a taste of what it's like, what the real world is," Ramon Llanos, owner
Land Development Engineering & Surveying
Ferndale, Washington

More success stories and videos

Legislative Slide Presentation - 2013

2012 Interim Report to Legislature & Governor





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