Our Islands, Our Future

As summer draws to an end, college-bound freshman Phyllis Raquinio said she’s learned to be more patient and grateful for the experience to work as a professional. “The STEMworks™ internship helped me learn about being professional around the people I work with and taught me to keep up to date with technology for my future profession,” Raquinio said, referring to the internship coordinated by Maui Economic Development Board’s Women in Technology Project. For Wyman Tong, his internship at ArdentMC was challenging and yet met his expectations. “This is my second year doing the STEMworks™ internship, and I have enjoyed them both,” he said.

In total, the Women in Technology Project, a statewide workforce initiative at MEDB, placed 30 students in a variety of six-week internships throughout the state. The STEMworks™ program provides students with access to high tech tools, software training, project design, career exposure and internship opportunities to learn from mentors and gain the real-world job experience, knowledge and skills they’ll need when they join the 21st century workforce. Raquinio, a 17-year-old Maui High School graduate, worked from home and met with her mentors on a weekly basis. Paired with Pedego Maui, which has sites at the Lahaina Gateway and the Kahana Gateway Shopping Center, Raquinio was assigned to “renovate” the electric bike tour company’s blog, create a Facebook page and create and edit videos. “The STEMworks™ internship contributed to honing my skills,” she said, adding that she learned new and innovative ways of using technology for communication.

Tong, who’s enrolling at the University of Hawaii Maui College this fall, said his internship gave him the first-time experience with programming work and insight into what software engineers do. “Even if an internship is not what you expect or does not fit your interests, you still get to spend time with very important people who can share their experiences and opinions with you,” he said. MEDB’s WIT project has been building STEM internships for 15 years, placing both high school and college students on all islands across the state ranging from the Pearl Harbor Shipyards to restoring fishponds and native vegetation on Molokai.