Students will soon be able to test out in-demand career fields through paid summer internships as participants in a new project being launched by the Tucson Unified School District.

The program, created in cooperation with the Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce, will be an expansion of a test program that offered auto-technology students internships over the summer.

Some of the other fields slated to be covered include health care, hospitality, industrial, electrician, sports medicine and aviation.

Lori Banzhaf, Tucson Metro Chamber executive vice president, said TUSD is designing a guide that will explain each field offered along with information on how much the different internships pay.

The goal is to develop training for the different fields over the next year. Coordinators want to get as many as 60 students involved.

The initial test program was designed for high school juniors and seniors who have an interest in automotive technology, said Chuck McCollum, career and technical education coordinator at TUSD.

In the test run, five students were placed into five separate automotive shops for six weeks.

Each student worked alongside a training technician on tasks such as oil changes, spark plugs changes and engine repairs.

“These learning experiences were preparing the students for real-life situations,” McCollum said. “It was all direct hands-on experience from the day they started.”

Banzhaf and Trish Williams, owner of Micro Imports Service, reached out to eight businesses willing to take student interns. The focus was on incoming high school seniors who wanted to get full-time jobs after graduation.

“Each business paid these students about minimum wage to encourage them to want to attend,” Banzhaf said.

“That’s how you are going to gain a young individual’s attention.”

Students in the program were offered part-time jobs after graduation with the opportunity to attend Pima Community College while the businesses paid for their educations. Two students who took advantage of the offer were hired by Watson Chevrolet.

Students enrolled in Joint Technical Education District automotive courses who want to apply must have a good attendance record, arrive at school on time, be juniors in their second year of auto-mechanics class and have a passion for auto technology, said Jack Ramsey, automotive technology teacher at Sahuaro High School.

Gabriella Vukelic is a University of Arizona journalism student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at