Education reporters Naomi Harris and Jocelyn Gecker highlighted a seldom-discussed but critical barrier affecting the workforce in Maryland (”Unpaid internships face new scrutiny as barriers to careers,” Sept. 30). I spent a 33-year career in public education, first as a special-education teacher then as a school social worker. Two years of my life were spent paying tuition to a university for the privilege of working to learn at an unpaid job, the first as a teaching intern and the second — four years later — as a social work intern. While what I learned in each was a critical part of my professional training, the struggle was intense.
By the time I took unpaid leave from the school system to complete my social work degree (there was no other way to complete the internship requirement), I had been self-supporting for four years and like most folks, I had bills. Squeezing the part-time jobs around the 32 hours per week of internship and nine graduate credits each semester of concurrent required classes was exhausting.
But I was one of the lucky ones. I only had to support myself.
Right now, we have a workforce crisis in Maryland in both teaching and social work. It is critical that we do all that we can to make these professions accessible to those who want to serve in them. Paid internships would go a long way toward attracting our best and brightest to this important work.
I call on our next governor to make this a priority.
— Gail Martin, Catonsville
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