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165. Using Internships to Spur Interest in STEM Careers with Nikki Stancampiano

One of the best ways to empower students with the life skills they’ll need as adults is to entrust them with solving challenging, real-world problems. Now imagine being able to pay them for those problems. That’s the reality of the Smart Skills Program here at PAST—all about creative, innovative ways to think about workforce development.

Smart Skills is a six-week program over the summer, a career exploration and work-based learning experience with youth ages 15-18 that explores several different STEM career paths, develops design thinking skills through solving real-world problems, and gets support from local industry professionals. It gives interns the opportunity to hone in on a focus area, develop career skills, and even earn industry credentials—all while developing leadership, communication, and other soft skills.

We’re speaking with the Project Director of the Smart Skills Program, Nikki Stancampiano of the PAST Foundation, along with four student participants, about their experience within the program, why they joined, what they got out of it, and what anyone can do to apply these lessons to their own school program.

To learn more, visit:

We unbox:

  1. What Smart Skills is and how to design a program that helps students develop career skills

  2. The different smart skills kids can develop and learn

  3. The challenges kids face during the program

  4. What teachers interested in implementing this program need to know



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