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Why Hire a High School Intern?

Written by Katie Murphy

Why hire a high school intern?
Let’s face it: there’s a perception that high school students are not always ready for the workplace. Who doesn’t remember the mistakes we made in high school? Classes we missed, thoughtless things we said, homework that mysteriously disappeared (only to be found four weeks later). These things stick with us. And—perhaps unfortunately—we stick those same things onto today’s high school students. We seem to forget what made high school great: creativity, excitement, openness, possibility. You deserve these assets on your team.

Your best interns may still be in high school.
Organizations hire interns for a reason. They can provide fresh perspectives, innovative solutions, a future workforce, and valuable help for your team. High school students often have strong opinions and big dreams—there may be no better group to respond to difficult questions and imagine new possibilities. At the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, we hire high school students from Cleveland area schools every summer. Over the years, our “Fed Scholars” became essential to the Money Museum and education outreach team. Working with local community organizations such as Youth Opportunities Unlimited or Esperanza, Inc. can make hiring high school students easier. Community groups can match students with interests and skills necessary for helping your organization reach its goals.

Gain a new perspective.
High school students have few preconceived ideas about your work. In a brainstorming session, they don’t think about roadblocks. They only see how great ideas can be. We often save new projects for when the Fed Scholars arrive. After they’ve added their imaginative ideas, the project may look completely different than we thought it would. Our Fed Scholars have helped redesign publications, develop pop-up exhibits, brainstorm marketing campaigns, and more.

Hire your audience.
There are no better web usability testers than a group of teens sitting in front of a laptop—or their cell phones. In our experience, students are unfailingly (and sometimes painfully) honest. Our high school interns have tested our exhibits, reviewed our website, offered feedback on our social media presence, and checked our Spanish translations…their input has been invaluable. Take advantage of the chance to hire members of your audience. Ask high school interns to look at your copy, your storefront, your website, your product. Teens will tell it like it is, no-holds-barred. Just be prepared to hear the green you love so much is “kinda ugly.”

Train a new generation.
One goal of the Fed Scholars program is to help Cleveland area students become next ready—ready for the next stage in their lives. From what to wear to work to how to guide a visitor through the museum, we teach our students a range of professional workplace etiquette. The benefits are mutual: Students develop skills they need to be successful in the workplace, and our team gets valuable help during our busiest season. Ensuring your future applicant pool is qualified and diverse can start today. Just reach out to the intelligent, enthusiastic employees in high school eager to work for you in the next phase of their lives.

Connect with your community.
If your organization is looking for unique ways to engage with the community, hiring high school interns may be a great place to start! At the Cleveland Fed, we place the community at the forefront of what we do. Hiring students from local schools connect us with our surrounding neighborhoods. It’s an outreach opportunity that has an impact on both the interns and our work. For example, during the 2017–2018 school year, our interns wrote and published a book. Titled Somewhere in Cleveland: The Cleveland Fed Scholars Story Project, the book contains powerful stories about the students’ lives in Cleveland. The stories give us a real-time perspective that reaches beyond our economic research and tells us what is happening in their neighborhoods. Our organization can use these stories to change how we work with our communities. You can learn more about the project and download their book on our site. High school students can amaze you if you let them; we recommend that you let them.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the views of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland or the Federal Reserve System.


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