FirstEnergy Places High School Interns at Call Center
For many years, FirstEnergy’s has been committed to helping build a strong workforce for the future. In addition to awarding STEM grants to elementary and high school teachers across our six-state service area, we also work to enhance our diverse recruiting efforts through relationships with high schools, universities and professional organizations.
Among FirstEnergy’s high school relationships is a long-standing partnership with the Akron Public Schools (APS) in Akron, Ohio. In 2019, the FirstEnergy Academy of Emerging Technology and Design was established at APS’s Kenmore-Garfield High School, providing students with instructional support and real-world learning opportunities in a variety of disciplines, including IT, business management, energy and environmental protection.
This year, FirstEnergy took its ongoing commitment to APS students a step further, hiring high school interns from Ellet High School in our call center for the first time. This initiative provides a real-world work experience in a corporate setting that’s not usually available to teen job seekers.
“This is the first time we’ve ever welcomed high school students to our Customer Service internship program,” said Bruce Cramer, a supervisor in the Customer Contact Center. “We worked with the school to recruit two highly motivated students for an initial pilot program, with the goal of introducing them to the work we do before they graduate from high school.”
Emma Hornsby, along with another classmate, started her internship in February 2021 at FirstEnergy’s Fairlawn Customer Contact Center. After a training period, she hit the ground running, learning what questions to ask customers to get the data needed to solve the customer’s problem and where to direct inquiries she could not handle herself. She also shadowed senior call center representatives to learn how to handle customer issues of greater complexity.
Hornsby and her classmate also pursued post-secondary coursework at the University of Akron during the internship. The two worked every business day from 2 to 6 p.m. following classes and were paid the same rate as contractors working in the same job.
“This internship was designed to give our students a chance to grow their soft skills in the areas of professionalism, timeliness, interpersonal communication and collaboration with others, along with acquiring business skills,” said Ron Boldry, college and career academy coach at Ellet High School. “It has been a really engaging, valuable opportunity for our young students to see the corporate world first-hand.”
In addition to mentoring the student interns, Cramer and his managers in Customer Service held monthly check-in meetings with Boldry, who helped guide the students during their internships.
“The experience helped me develop my Customer Service skills and ability to manage several tasks at once, including listening to the customer and processing the call correctly,” said Hornsby. “Customer service will definitely be important to me in my future career aspirations.”
The students successfully completed their internships and graduated from Ellet High School this spring.
According to Cramer, the two were eager to learn, got their feet wet in a professional environment and completed every assignment at a high level of proficiency. “This pilot program was a total success, and I hope this program becomes a pipeline to employment for future student interns.”
Building the Workforce of the Future
The high school internship program is one of many efforts by FirstEnergy to continue building a strong workforce for the future.
The company offers a co-op/internship program for college students who are approaching graduation or looking to begin their technical education. This programs help students gain experience and skills and allows us to develop and hire the next generation of our workforce.
The company also offers the Power Systems Institute (PSI), a two-year academic program conducted through alliances with area community colleges. The PSI program prepares students for a career with FirstEnergy as a line or substation worker.
For more information about the company’s internship and career opportunities, visit FirstEnergy’s Student Opportunities section on its webpage. To learn about FirstEnergy’s current job opportunities, please visit the company’s Career page.