In the Spotlight: TIPS

What do farms, puzzles and a bakery have in common?

In preparation for their Spring 2010 internships, a mix of more than 15 students from Hartford and Oxbow High Schools got a chance to tour a selection of Upper Valley Businesses as part of the TIPS program facilitated by the Upper Valley Business and Education Partnership (UVBEP). TIPS is a work-readiness program that combines 20 hours of classroom curriculum work with a 40-hour unpaid internship. Students research careers and skill sets, explore their own individual interests and learn to match those interests with their goals. The TIPS program also offers tours of local businesses, which give students a behind-the-scenes look at how various business teams are organized.

On March 30th, Hartford students began their day visiting Stave Puzzles where they learned about the skills needed to create handcrafted wooden puzzles. Meanwhile, Oxbow students visited Stephens Precision to see first-hand the precision tools used in aerospace and other high-tech industries. At these sites, students learned the importance of communication and quality control. Ann Stephens of Stephens Precision shared her formula for work satisfaction: believing in the company’s mission, enjoying fellow co-workers’ company, meeting personal goals such as salary or benefit needs, and enjoying the routine tasks and challenges.

The two schools then united to tour the warehouse of the oldest flour company in the United States, King Arthur Flour. There they explored the processes needed to take and deliver orders accurately, as well as create products such as specialty cake mixes. Tom Carlson, Warehouse Director, explained the processes of receiving, inventory control, package preparation and shipping. Their on-site call center was also buzzing with customer relations specialists helping customers with problems ranging from missing packages to how to best raise yeast bread.

Later, students headed north to tour Cedar Circle Farm in Thetford, Vermont. At the farm, Cat Buxton, Education Director, explained the seasonality of farming, the advantages and requirements in organic certification, and the amount of planning that goes into their work before the growing season begins. Staff all agreed that a desire for outdoor hands-on work was key to their work satisfaction. Students were surprised to learn that farming is a 24-hour on-call job, as seedlings may need middle-of-the-night assistance if temperatures plummet.

Students noticed common themes from all of their hosts; teamwork, strong communication, flexibility, and customer satisfaction were emphasized across the board – giving students excellent insight into future career plans.

Thanks to collaboration with Navicate and a grant from the Vermont Department of Labor’s Next Generation Fund, UVBEP has been able to offer TIPS at three area high schools.

Read more or contact UVBEP for details.

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