WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Students in West Springfield are interviewing for internships this week and it’s all part of a program designed to give them real-world experience and to get an early start on building lucrative careers.

The program offers young students a chance to get real-world experience in high-demand industries close to home. The school secured two separate grants from the state that support the program and has gotten a number of local businesses on board.

“I’ll tell you, work-based learning is one of the most important things we can offer for our students, to get that experience in the real world, so they have a taste of what’s next. Then they can really make some choices about what they want to prepare for after high school,” said West Springfield Interim Superintendent Vito Perrone.

It’s part of their Innovation Pathways Program, which focuses on connecting students with employers and higher education opportunities in their field of choice. This week, students participated in interviews with local organizations for internships.

Emmalene Pirnie is looking to enter the marketing industry. She’s already participated in internships and is looking forward to engaging in more, “It’s been incredible. It’s such an amazing opportunity to work in healthcare marketing but also dip my toes in now digital marketing, so I’m getting all these different perspectives and all these different experiences.”

Thanks to grant funding from the state, the internships are paid. More than 75 students have the opportunity to work 100 hours at a $ 15-an-hour rate. This perk takes the financial strain off of organizations looking to participate and help students, such as Each Moment We’re Alive, and Women Cancer Support, an organization that helps women diagnosed with cancer beyond their medical treatment.

“We’re still a grass roots organization, we’ve been going global with the pandemic, but the budget is still really tight,” said Cindy Sheridan Murphy, the Executive Director. Not only will the student benefit, but her team can also learn from these tech-savvy students and the new perspectives they bring, “Getting this young community involved, these students that are so eager to help with the marketing, the social media, the website.”

The program also benefits the community, showing students the unlimited opportunities available close to home.

“It’s such a competitive market out there in the workforce and also in higher education. So in providing these students with these experiences they are really differentiating themselves from the students they are competing with even on the global scale,” said Wesley Carter, Director of Innovation Pathways at West Springfield High School

The partnering businesses come from pretty much every industry sector not limited to local hair salons, pharmacies, and healthcare companies even the Mayor’s Office is taking two interns.

Wesley also mentioned that receiving a paycheck, seeing those taxes coming out of it, and managing the money from there is all part of that real-world experience they are hoping to pass on to the students involved.