Shedding Light on Externships


While it’s common for us to host internships for students, we flipped the table and had two teachers from a local high school join us for a learning opportunity called an externship. Not only were they able to learn from us, but we were able to use their expertise and deepen our relationship with the externs and the school. Both left feeling more prepared for their upcoming school year.

An Inside Look into Business

Teacher externships were created for educators to work closely with businesses to put what they teach in the classroom into real-world applications. Often externships relate to a teacher’s classes to help close the gap between education and business. Teachers can better understand and teach the skills their students need in the area of their externship. It also is an excellent way for teachers to help guide their students down the career path that’s right for them.

Relationships and Learning

This is the first year we have partnered with Iowa STEM Association program for externships, and it has been a great way to strengthen our relationship with local schools. David Vander Tuin is the Operations Manager of our prefabrication shop and supervisor of an extern. He explains, “The program is a way to deepen our relationship with Sioux Center High School and give a deeper understanding of Interstates, the work that we perform, and the employees and positions involved with that work.”

Having an externship is a win not only for the teacher and the student but also for us. “Teachers may come to learn from us, but we are learning from them too. The externs provide us with a better understanding of what they teach and how it fits into our work,” comments Kent Heronimus, Recruiting Manager at Interstates. Dan Riley, Analytics Manager and supervisor of an extern, states, “We wanted someone who wasn’t ingrained in Interstates’ processes or technology but could provide us their skills and perspectives.” With the analytics extern’s perspective, the team has a more efficient onboarding and hiring process.

With strengthened relationships and a better understanding of our work, both the school and Interstates can help prepare students for their future careers.

Teachers Receive Hands-On Experience
Robbie Cundy, a math teacher at Sioux Center High School

Robbie Cundy joined our Analytics team this summer. Having met some of the Analytics team previously, he decided he wanted to understand their work better. During his externship, there was a lot of learning about how to teach his statistics class better. He learned the skills needed for a career path in analytics, and he documented his onboarding experience to help us improve the process.

The externship proved to be successful as he saw the wholistic view of analytics. Robbie Cundy shared, “There is much more involved in statistics than just the math of calculating with numbers. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Analysts, statisticians and data scientists have to understand coding and a variety of software programs in order to organize the data for companies to do their analytical work,” says Cundy. In addition, he saw the importance of soft skills such as teamwork and being a self-starter. Cundy mentioned that he especially saw these soft skills during meetings. “Sitting in on meetings was one of the most enjoyable parts. It was great to hear a team work together for the best solution. Seeing skills in action reinforced the value of teaching these skills to students.”

John Doornenbal, an industrial technology teacher at Sioux Center High School

John Doornenbal spent his externship in our prefabrication and panel shop. Doornenbal participated in various assemblies and projects. Much of the work he performed was new to him, and he was able to learn on the job while asking Interstates employees questions and observing the processes and skills needed for this work. We also asked him to develop a hands-on assessment to evaluate potential employees beyond just the interview process. It would help us see how a candidate works, reads plans, assembles parts and other needed skills for the job.

Doornenbal’s end goal was to have an in-depth understanding of our work and the industry to help better prepare his students for the workforce. Like Robbie, he saw the importance of teaching soft skills like teamwork, communication, and critical thinking to students. “Everyone has to work together and be engaged in the process of creating a product,” adds Doornenbal. He also walked away with a few new ideas for his curriculum, including reading schematics, incorporating CAD and adding a CNC router project.

Both were excited to take this opportunity to grow as a teacher and recommend an externship to others.

Future of Externships at Interstates

While we participated in a program through the Iowa STEM Teacher Externships Program, we hope that we can offer this opportunity at other Interstates’ locations. Currently, we are in the planning process of hosting a college instructor who wants to further develop his arc flash curriculum. We’ve seen the success of the program, and we hope to leverage the opportunities of externships in the future.


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