About This Initiative

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The union-led Student Internship-Union Mentoring Initiative offers a program model, or blueprint, for how unions and their signatory employers in a wide variety of sectors can work together to reach out to and nurture the next generation of workers by engaging high school students in paid internship experiences under the careful guidance of trained union mentors.

This model originated within the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW ®) under the leadership of the IBEW’s telecommunications unions in New England.   The model was originally launched in 2000 within the New England states in recognition that the telecommunications sector would be losing a critical mass of highly skilled employees workers to retirement in the not too distant future and that labor and management both had a vested interest in nurturing the next generation of skilled workers.  The story of this unique and dynamic venture within the telecommunications sector has been captured in a 15-minute video produced by members of IBEW Local 1228.

The Student Internship-Union Mentoring model has wide applicability across sectors and has now been successfully field-tested and replicated in multiple settings including integrating youth interns into

  • the design and manufacture of helicopters and submarines
  • energy generation
  • public service and educational administration
  • the protection of municipal water supplies through local water pollution control authorities
  • and more!

Thanks to the exceptional leadership and vision of several Local Unions, some especially notable student internship-union mentoring initiatives have been carried out in recent years by labor-management partnerships at

  • Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford, CT — with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 1150; This notable example of the student internship-union mentoring program model is captured in a 15-minute video produced by IBT Local 1150 in 2011.  (This effort was nationally recognized by the AFL-CIO Working for America Institute as an exemplary workforce development program.)
  • General Dynamics/Electric Boat in Groton, CT — with the Marine Draftsmen’s Association, UAW Local 571 (and also with the Metal Trades Council of New London County/AFL-CIO, until affiliated unions within the Council faced some downsizing);
  • Groton Utilities and the Groton Water Pollution Control Authority in Connecticut — with United Steelworkers Local 9411 and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 4, Locals 1303 and 818 (Groton Utilities chapters).

The Student Internship-Union Mentoring Concept Has Come Full Circle!

Since the inception of this program model, a number of student interns who have been part of a union mentoring program have been hired as full-time employees at the worksites in which they interned.  And, after attaining several years (or more) of work experience, some of these former interns have volunteered to serve as mentors for more recent interns.  Participating unions and employers tell heartwarming stories about interns from the early to mid 2000s who, as full-time workers and union members in the 2010s, have stepped forward eagerly to become union mentors.  With their mentored internship having been such a formative part of their own career path, these former interns report that they want to give back what they received and to lend a helping hand to start yet another young person on a rewarding career in a skilled union job.