As GPS Education Partners (GPSEd) prepares for our accounting intern Laura Stadler to blaze a new trail at college in the fall, we’d like to dedicate this blog to reflect on her invaluable time here at GPSEd and all that she’s accomplished.
Laura began interning at GPSEd in the fall of 2021 after taking interest in an accounting class provided at New Berlin High School. Since then, she has been able to hone in on specific professional accounting skills while also gaining crucial experience within other departments such as human resources. Similar to our other work-based learning programs, Laura learns through the guidance of mentors following a Business Financial Management Pathway, or rather a more defined learning program apart from just your classic internship. With this, instead of only being put to work on specific accounting tasks, Laura also has the opportunity to learn those key 21st-century professional soft skills relating to office responsibilities and effective communication.
With the guidance of Rachel Low, GPSEd’s Accounting Manager, Laura has proven to be a wonderful addition to the GPSEd family. We had the chance to sit down and speak to both our experienced and aspiring accountants on what this internship opportunity has meant to the two of them and how this type of experience should be not only encouraged, but highly attainable for high school students. First are excerpts from our conversation with Laura.
What brought you to GPSEd?
I was interested in doing a youth apprenticeship/internship in the accounting field after taking an accounting class my junior year. I had a friend who had shared her experience working at GPSEd for her senior year youth apprenticeship and had been complimentary on her experience with the organization.
What are some of the projects you’ve worked on that you’ve really liked here?
With accounting, I complete more daily activities rather than long-term projects. Some of these tasks include accounts payable/paying, bank reconciliations, accounts receivable, various accounting schedule tasks, etc. While working in HR, I have been able to assist with various payroll, insurance, and employee benefits projects throughout my time.
I’ve found that saying yes to other projects has gotten me experiences other than just the accounting that I’m here for. Gaining different experiences throughout the company is about learning to build relationships.
Which project has been the most challenging and what skills did you learn to complete it?
No project has been necessarily challenging because of the support and guidance colleagues have provided, however one of the projects that has taken up a majority of my time was a software transition. It was a lot of repetitive work but was something that was necessary for the betterment of the organization. I was able to just throw on a podcast and get to work.
What are some of the experiences you’ve had here that school didn’t teach you?
Learning how to interact in a [more professional] business environment is extremely valuable. It also gave me an opportunity to explore areas of business that the school didn’t necessarily have classes on. Even things as simple as managing your availability through different calendars, learning when to set up a meeting, and interacting in bigger groups during culture-focused team building are important experiences I’ve been able to have here before fully entering the professional world.
What are some of the most important things you’ve learned with this opportunity?
I think as I have been able to work on projects in both Accounting and Human Resources I’ve realized the importance of paying attention to detail, confidentiality, and time management. A/P Coding is key in accounting and attention to detail is essential. [This opportunity] has given me more perspective and teaches more through real experiences than I’d have learned in a classroom.
What are some of the things you’ve learned of working in a professional office setting that you didn’t expect to have to “learn”?
I think I realized from working in the office setting all of the moving parts and people it takes to run a successful business. When I first started I had a narrow view of only the accounting department, but as I continued my internship and was able to interact and collaborate with other team members and departments, I became more aware of the various aspects of the company and businesses in general.
Has this opportunity allowed you to feel more confident and prepared for college and/or whatever you do career wise?
This opportunity gave me a taste of what working in a business environment is like and what I can be prepared for after college. It definitely gave me a leg up in being able to dicifer between possible career interests even before I take classes at college.
What piece of advice would you give to students who are thinking about certain career paths, but aren’t sure if it’s the right choice?
I would encourage people in that situation to stay open to new opportunities presented to them. Whether it’s an online seminar, shadow day, or year long internship, finding new ways to gain exposure to a possible or new interest or career is extremely valuable for the future.
Now here are excerpts from our conversation with Accounting Manager/Mentor Extraordinaire, Rachel Low.
As a leader, what benefits do you see having an intern on your team?
I notice that as I go over processes with Laura, I find things that can be improved or things that need to be updated or changed. For example, she has updated the Accounts Payable files into electronic format as well as provided detailed procedures for Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable and bank reconciliation to name a few. We began by developing her skills with special projects in PowerSchool software and she is learning HR functions to further her experiences.
What have been some of the cool teaching moments you’ve experienced with Laura?
It’s fun to share my experience with Laura. She might not have learned some of the things that are specific to nonprofits and I get to explain what we do and why we are different from a for-profit business such as not having an income tax report, but filling out a 990 form instead and contributions that need to be reported. I am enjoying answering questions whenever something is new for Laura. It is a good feeling to be able to share knowledge with someone else and see them grow.
What advice would you give to students like Laura who are figuring out their potential career paths?
I would encourage them to find out if there are any internships like this to apply for at their school. I think this is a great way to get a variety of valuable experiences. Even if they don’t end up going into the field that their internship was for, they found out early on what they did or didn’t want to pursue and hopefully had a lot of positive experiences along the way!
Through GPSEd’s focus on different kinds of work-based learning, it’s been clear to see the benefits and personal confidence transformations that can arise out of early professional experience. To any student seeking a chance to get on track to a career that interests you, these kinds of opportunities don’t always present themselves clearly, yet there are a good deal of them out there. GPSEd believes in head starts and the opportunity to understand the career that interests you before diving headfirst into it. With this, we strongly recommend connecting with your school counselors to find opportunities that may be that perfect head start into the field of your choosing.