With the launch of the Somerville ICAN (Institute for Careers and Networking) program, about 20 high school students from Somerville High and Full Circle are getting a first-hand look at different work environments as they learn about specific career and internship opportunities through sessions hosted by industry partners. The program has not only offered students a chance to learn about a variety of industries, it has also provided them with an opportunity to make professional contacts and gain specific skills as they prepare for life beyond high school.

Somerville ICAN brings together industry partners committed to inclusive hiring practices, and students with specialized needs who are preparing for post-secondary life. The program is a joint effort between the Somerville Public Schools, Massachusetts Advocates for Children, and Work Without Limits, an initiative of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Five area partners – Cambridge Health Alliance, CVS Health Boston, Vinfen, PwC, and Partners Healthcare – are making sure that Somerville students participating in the program are learning about a wide range of career options. 

For Superintendent of Schools, Mary Skipper, the program fills a critical need. “Helping students make connections that will support them in their future endeavors is an important part of the educational process. Every student deserves the opportunity to explore and to find their calling. We are incredibly grateful to the many partners who are supporting this project in its pilot year. Our students are coming away not only with new skills and connections, but with the clear understanding that there are great organizations out there ready and willing to help them succeed.”

In the inaugural year of the Somerville ICAN program, students are exploring opportunities in a variety of industries and gaining important job search and employment skills through 2-3 hour sessions with five industry partners. Sessions often include a tour of the company site, an industry briefing where students learn about different types of jobs within that industry and the skills required, the opportunity for students to meet and network with employees and managers at each site, and the chance to learn specific technical and soft skills that can help students succeed in that industry. For industry partners, the program offers an opportunity to connect with a diverse group of young people preparing to enter the workforce, and to give students a glimpse at their own work environments and career options that they might not have otherwise considered.

PwC had this to say about the program’s impact both to students and to the company: "PwC has invested a significant amount of time and resources to help equip young people from under-served communities with the financial, technology skills and career-selection skills they need to change the trajectory of their lives. The ICAN program perfectly aligns with these initiatives and establishes a connection between the students and our people.  We are able to share the financial literacy and tech resources we've developed to help educate students and set them up for future success in life." 

ICAN graduates

This fall, students in the program toured Cambridge Hospital, where they learned how a range of jobs in the Medical, IT, Facilities and Energy, Food Service, Multi-cultural Affairs and Patient Services departments all play a role in the operation of the hospital. They also visited CVS Health’s Regional Learning Center in downtown Boston where they learned about the company’s commitment to social responsibility and their bold approach to “transforming the consumer health experience.” During their site visit, students walked through the CVS online application process. They also practiced their customer service skills and learned how to operate a CVS cash register.

Students then took a trip to Roslindale where they visited Vinfen’s Webster House and learned about the social service industry. Through clubhouses such as the Webster House, Vinfen offers a comprehensive menu of programs and supports to individuals recovering from psychiatric conditions. PwC offered students an in-depth look at the accounting and financial services industry. A dynamic team of PwC volunteers supported students throughout the morning as they worked on a variety of Planning and Money Management activities, including learning how to put together a budget. Students and PwC volunteers teamed up toward the end of the visit for a tour of their beautiful new space in Boston’s seaport district before students made their way back to the T for the trip home.

This year’s Somerville ICAN program will culminate with a final visit to Partners Healthcare at Assembly Square in January 2019. The visit will include an end-of-program celebration as students get ready to take their next steps, more aware of the many opportunities available to them and better prepared and eager to pursue their career interests in a competitive market.

--Susana H. Morgan, Director of Communications and Grants