Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Louisiana high school internships must now be paid after BESE changes policy

by BIZ Magazine

BY: ALLISON ALLSOPLouisiana Illuminator

Multiple individuals sit behind a large, raised desk with a drop-down screen behind them.
BESE members met for their regular monthly meeting on April 15. (Allison Allsop)

Louisiana’s state school board will now require high school student internships to be paid positions. This new ruling will only apply to internships students enroll in through the school system for class credit.

This move stemmed from a Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) committee meeting last week when members revised work-based learning policy. The changes to this section were approved during Monday’s full BESE meeting.

Under the new policy, an internship is described as “work-based activities where students work with an employer for a specified period of time to learn about a particular occupation or industry. The workplace activities involved with an internship could include special projects, a sample of tasks from different jobs, or tasks from a single occupation.”

Students will also receive a Carnegie unit for completing an internship. Carnegie units are widely accepted measurements of time spent studying a subject. Students must have 24 units to graduate, with most coming from specific courses.

Internships are just one of three work-based learning options for Louisiana public high school students. The other two are cooperatives and apprenticeships, which are also paid positions.

Age requirements and minimum wage laws apply to these internships. For the most part, students must be 14 years old to be legally employed. Those under 16 years of age may only work outside of school hours, and students must be paid the state minimum wage of $7.25 or better.

Jim Garvey, a former BESE president and now executive counsel for the Louisiana Workforce Commission, told the board studies show students do better with paid internships. Without providing supporting reasons, he shared his own opinion in support of the policy change

“Paying the students creates skin in the game on behalf of the businesses,” Garvey said. “They want to get the most that they can from the money they are paying these children, so they give them high-quality work, which turns into a high-quality learning experience.”

Part of the conversation during Monday’s meeting revolved around whether businesses are willing to participate in the internship program.

Mary Beth Hughes, director of government relations for the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, said the group will emphasize the importance of offering internships with its members.

Hughes also said she recently spoke with the Louisiana Chamber of Commerce Executives and relayed their support for the new policy.

Conrad Appel, R-New Orleans, one of Gov. Jeff Landry’s at-large BESE appointees, said the board needs greater buy-in from the business community in order to make internships successful. Industry leaders at the table are promoting quality internships, but more are needed, he said.

“We can do the incentive part. We can’t do the connectivity part.” Appel said.

Garvey said the Louisiana Department of Education is working closer with the Workforce Commission than he has ever seen. One of the biggest priorities for new LWC Secretary Susana Schowen is to increase apprenticeships and internships, he said.

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