Perry VanKirk VanKirk Career Academy hosts summer internship

Submitted to The Chief
Perry High School graduate Alexa Zarate is a DMACC Perry VanKirk Center summer intern. As part of her internship, she is working with White Rock Conservancy in Coon Rapids. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS

In collaboration with Gov. Kim Reynolds’ Future Ready Iowa program and the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families, the DMACC Perry VanKirk Career Academy started a 2020 Summer internship program in mid-June. All interns in the program will be attending DMACC in the fall in various fields such as nursing, marketing, computer languages, dental hygiene, etc.

The state of Iowa has appropriated $250,000 of funds to support the Future Ready Iowa Summer Youth Intern Program grant, a funding opportunity to place youth at risk of not graduating from high school in internships primarily in high-demand career fields.

The DMACC VanKirk Academy internship started with 20 students on two work tracks:

Track A: Students were trained in digital marketing skills through DMACC’s continuing ed department’s Online Digital Marketing training.

Track B: Students in the computer language track developed skills in software development through a partnership with Delta V code school.

DMACC Perry VanKirk Center Director Eddie Diaz said students from both tracks were partnered with companies and non-profits to implement their skills as the summer progressed and worked with staff that helped them increase their skills in project management and professional work place behavior.

Diaz said the COVID-19 pandemic presented some significant challenges, but ultimately led to an innovative internship experience that focused on developing skills that are widely needed.

“We are proud that our summer internship was able to pivot towards an online internship within a matter of weeks,” Diaz said. “This allowed students to gain skills in high demand fields, including digital marketing and software development, while earning money that they can use towards their pursuit of a college degree at DMACC.”

Eoin Davis of Perry is one of the DMACC Perry VanKirk Center summer interns taking the Track B route for coders. He graduated from Perry High School and said he plans to enroll in the Computer Languages Academy at DMACC this fall after completing his 20-hour per week paid internship.

The Perry VanKirk Center is starting a new Computer Languages Academy in the fall where students take 30-credits in a one-year diploma program leading to high-demand, high-paying jobs in the software development field.

According to Diaz, once students complete the Perry program, selected graduates will participate in a four-month commercial software development training program at the new Rural Forge in Jefferson. That company, which is attempting to bring Silicon Valley-type high-tech jobs to rural Iowa, will help prepare the future workforce further develop their programming skills. Diaz said at the conclusion of the four months, the young professionals may be invited to be interviewed for jobs having a $50,000 to $60,000 starting pay with salaries ballooning to six figures quickly in the high-demand, high-paying careers.

Davis said the three mandatory weekly Zoom meetings, each lasting an hour and a half, are extremely beneficial. He said the Monday Zoom class is a project management class. The Tuesday meeting is a soft skills class focusing on professionalism, communication and dealing with employers. He said the Thursday Zoom class for the Track B students is a coding class with the Track A students having a marketing class.

Davis said these classes prepare the students for moving into the real world.

“Having the ability to work with a client is amazing because not only will it give us references for future jobs, but it will also allow us to see how a relationship between an employee and a third party, like other clients, evolves over time and how working for and with them would play out in a real world,” Davis said.

Fellow Perry High School graduate Alexa Zarate of Perry is also a summer intern, but she is taking Track A. As part of her internship, she is working with White Rock Conservancy in Coon Rapids creating four to six ads for the 5,500 acre non-profit land trust to promote their housing accommodations.

Zarate said she plans to attend the DMACC Ankeny Campus in the fall, majoring in Dental Assisting and also take classes at the Perry VanKirk Center.

“My major is not marketing or project management but going through this internship has taught me that I’m capable of more than I think I am and to think outside of the box even when it’s outside of your comfort zone,” Zarate said.

Rocking W Services Managing Director Rob Wiley is one of the instructors in the six-week program. The Perry-based consulting firm provides professional services and IT support to state and federal government agencies as well as the private sector. He said project management skills can benefit students throughout their academic studies, personal lives and in the workplace.

“The students are experiencing the challenges of working in virtual teams and are learning how to navigate through an assortment of issues within each of the projects,” Wiley said.

The pilot program ends Aug. 14.

The Summer Youth Intern Program was created under the Future Ready Iowa Act as a way to develop Iowa’s skilled workforce. The initiative aims to ensure 70 percent of Iowans in the workforce ages 25-64 have education and training beyond high school by the year 2025. For more information about Future Ready Iowa, visit