From Classroom to Call Center

Jacob Dotson and Emma Hornsby are the first students to complete a Customer Service internship at a FirstEnergy call center while still in high school.

June 16, 2021

At FirstEnergy, we remain focused on the future – and it’s never too early to start preparing the next generation of employees for career success.

That’s why our Customer Service organization decided to take on two interns earlier this year – while they were still enrolled as high school seniors – and introduce them to their very first professional work experience.

The students, Emma Hornsby and Jacob Dotson of Ellet High School in the Akron Public Schools district, started in February at the Fairlawn Customer Contact Center and successfully completed their internships in late May.

“This is the first time we’ve ever welcomed high school students to our internship program,” said Bruce Cramer, supervisor, Customer Contact Center. “We worked with the school to recruit these two highly motivated students for an initial pilot program, with a goal of introducing them to the work we do here at an earlier stage, before they graduate from high school.”

For Emma and Jacob, who both pursued post-secondary coursework at the University of Akron during their internships, the chance to be hired as paid FirstEnergy interns while still completing high school was an exciting prospect.

The two worked every business day at the Fairlawn Call Center from 2 to 6 p.m. following their classes and were paid at the same rate as current FirstEnergy contractors.

After a training period, they hit the ground running, learning skills Customer Service representatives must acquire to properly obtain information from customers and direct operator system calls to the right channels for resolution.

In addition to mentoring the student interns, Bruce and his managers in Customer Service held monthly check-in meetings with Ron Boldry, a college and career academy coach at Ellet High School, who helped select and guide Emma and Jacob during their internship.

“This internship was designed to give our students a chance to grow their soft skills in the areas of professionalism, timeliness, interpersonal communication and collaboration with others, along with acquiring business skills,” said Ron. “It has been a really engaging, valuable opportunity for our young students to see the corporate world first-hand.”

During their time here, Emma and Jacob shadowed senior agents who handle calls with a higher degree of difficulty and attended team meetings about our company’s safety culture, diversity and inclusion efforts and employee business resource groups.

“The experience helped me develop my Customer Service skills and ability to manage several tasks at once, including listening to the customer, confirming the level of verification and processing the call transfer correctly,” said Emma. “Customer service will definitely be important to me in my future career aspirations.”

Bruce agreed and is happy with the students’ performance, declaring the inaugural internship pilot an overall success: “Emma and Jacob have been eager to learn, gotten their feet wet in a professional environment and completed every assignment at a high level of proficiency. We were absolutely looking to bring them on as full-time contractors with hopes of converting them to future employees, but it just didn’t align with their schedules and goals at this time.”

The doors are still open to both, however. ​And Bruce foresees the program continuing so it can further benefit both area students and FirstEnergy.

“We definitely want to move the dial on this program, which includes taking on more interns this fall when the school year resumes – with the ultimate goal of eventually bringing them on board as full-time employees.”