Experiential learning provides hands-on career practice


Illustration by Mattheau Faught/The Et Cetera

HARRIET RAMOS, Editor in Chief

Dallas College students can get real-life work experience and get paid while going to school.

Chris Schlarb, practicums and clinicals coordinator, said the Experiential Learning Department matches students with available internships and apprenticeships and helps students polish their resumes and interviewing skills.

“We call it earn while you learn,” Schlarb said. “So basically, instead of having a job at like a fast-food restaurant where you’re not really developing those professional skills … we get you a job where you’re paid and you’re developing those skills and you’re gaining that experience in your career pathway.”

According to Schlarb, in most cases Experiential Learning does not require students to have a certain GPA or number of credit hours to participate in the program.

Students can email [email protected] for more information.

Daniel Brookshire, a computer science major, is in his second internship.

He was hired by the information technology company GXA to set up workstations for clients around the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

“The most valuable part of all this is getting to see the technology I study in class being used in real world applications,” Brookshire said. “[I’m] gaining job experience and exposure to day-to-day work processes.”

Brookshire said that his internships run for 12 weeks, but Schlarb said some internships last anywhere between six months and a year depending on the area. Apprenticeships are typically a year long.

Schlarb said the number of employers the college partners with is constantly growing.

Currently there are about 80 local businesses, including hospitals and software companies, that have hands-on learning options available for Dallas College students.

The amount of money students get paid for internships and apprenticeships varies, but Schlarb said they strive to get employers to pay a minimum of $15 per hour, which is the living wage for Dallas County.

“We should value our students’ knowledge and their experience,” Schlarb said. “They’re bringing in their skill set and their time.”

Title V, a government-funded grant program focused on improving higher education for Hispanic students, also offers an internship program.

Jonathan Estrada, Eastfield’s grant program coordinator, said students who get internships through Title V must be Hispanic or eligible for financial aid, have at least 30 credit hours and a 3.0 minimum GPA.

Estrada said the program is working under a new grant and the reorganization to Dallas College delayed getting staff in place. Now they are focused on getting the word out to students.

“Now we’re fully staffed and OK,” Estrada said. “We had a resource fair [last] Wednesday … and we had about 75 to 100 students come through.”

Students can find out more information at dallascollege.edu/dhsi.

Schlarb said the goal of Experiential Learning is to improve the lives of students for the long term.

“It really helps them in the end, once they graduate, with finding a job in a position that’s full time,” Schlarb said. “So I really see it as kind of like social justice work in a way.”