Mason Naragon, an incoming senior at El Toro High, landed an internship this summer working alongside engineers and manufactures at Hampton Products, an industry leader in home and commercial security systems.

For 15 hours a week, Naragon learns from Hampton technicians how to operate advanced machinery that tests the integrity of locks and other security hardware. His daily duties at the Foothill Ranch-based company include calibrating equipment and programing schematics using engineering software in the company’s research and development lab, where locks, security lighting, safety belts and other products are tested.

“I am learning more than I could have ever imagined,” Naragon said. “Internships like these are now absolutely necessary to help prepare students for the workforce.”

Naragon is among three dozen students across Orange County that landed internships this summer in high-demand industries through OC Pathways, a collaborative lead by the Orange County Department of Education that includes 14 school districts, local colleges and universities, and more than 50 regional businesses.

The goal of these internships is to connect industries with students, training them to eventually serve as their next generation of skilled workers.

Other students this summer are working alongside professionals in healthcare, biotechnology, information technology, digital media, hospitality and other sectors.

The summer internships are one piece of the OC Pathway program, launched in 2014 with a $15 million state grant. The mission of OC Pathways is to build a regional infrastructure to support career pathways, or instructional programs that blend academics with hands-on work experience, to prepare local students for college and careers in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

Carol Hume, superintendent at Coastline ROP, an OC Pathways partner, said the summer internships not only teach students job skills by placing them in actual professional environments, they also encourage students to learn “soft skills.” These include analytical thinking, multitasking, verbal and written communications, time management, and other interpersonal skills.

“Or goal is for these internships to help engrain all these different skills in students. All these combined skills will help set them apart from other job candidates,” she said.

Coastline ROP’s summer pathway program placed 10 students from Irvine Unified, Tustin Unified, Saddleback Valley Unified and Newport-Mesa Unified in internships. The students will work a combined 60 hours at their internships this summer and another 60 hours in a classroom, where they review what they’ve learned and work on team exercises and receive other training.

Vy Tran, an incoming senior at Tustin High, is interning at Dinsmore Inc. in Irvine, a company that develops and designs prototypes of new products for the marketplace, including camera and smartphone accessories and medical and biomedical devices. Tran works alongside engineers who use the most advanced 3D printers to build the prototypes.

“There is nothing in the classroom that can come close to simulating what I’m learning at my internship,” she said. Tran said she’s not sure yet what career path she’ll pursue when she starts college, but having the internship is helping her try different options, she said.

Tyler Bagnol, an incoming senior at Tustin High, is interning at Plastics and Metal Center Inc. in Laguna Hills, a company that designs, engineers and manufactures components for clients that include Broadcom, Oakley and Lockheed Martin. Bagnol is receiving training in the latest computer-aided design, or CAD, technology.

“We actually get to work with the tools that professionals in these industries work with,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything more valuable I could be doing this summer to help me plan for my future.”