Why You Should Hire High School Interns
Why should you as an employer consider welcoming high school students as interns in your company? As part of the 2018 Cleveland Internship Summit, representatives from local companies, schools and youth-workforce intermediary organizations served as panelists to discuss their experiences with high school internship programs and share advice on the process.
Participants in the 2018 Cleveland Internship Summit panel, Why Employers Should Consider High School Students for Their Internship Programs, included moderator Joe Spiccia, superintendent of Wickliffe City School District; Craig Dorn, senior vice president at Youth Opportunities Unlimited; Zerrine Bailey, emerging talent network leader at JumpStart; Karyn McAdams, human resource team leader at Parker Hannifin; and Marzell Brown, talent management lead at Rockwell Automation. The focus of the discussion was intended to help the audience understand the elements that make a high school internship experience successful for all parties involved.
Why a high school internship program could benefit your company
While some companies might not even realize it’s possible to hire teens as interns, others might be hesitant to do so due to some common misconceptions related to these types of programs, including that high school students are too young, they aren’t ready for this type of experience, they aren’t capable of the work involved or that they don’t have enough to contribute to the internship experience.
The panelists identified several reasons why those thoughts on hiring younger interns are not accurate, including the following benefits that they bring to an organization:
Benefit No. 1: Valuable work. Students at this age are learning things at an earlier and faster rate than many adults. They have a keen interest in and experience with different areas of technology, and can pick up new things quickly.
Benefit No. 2: New ways of thinking. Having input from varying ages and levels of experience can help improve the energy in your company and add to the diversity of thought and actions your company takes. These younger workers can help improve your brand awareness and appeal to a younger audience.
Benefit No. 3: Management opportunities. Having high school interns on staff can be a great experience for your college interns. It can give them the opportunity to take on a management and mentorship role when it comes to working with the younger students.
Benefit No. 4: Workforce development. Your high school intern could very well become a part-time employee while they work their way through a local college program, and then potentially become a future full-time employee with solid work experience.
Benefit No. 5: Community partnerships. When you begin an internship program for high school students within your company, you have the potential to create long-term sustainable partnerships with valuable organizations and schools within your community.
How to go about creating a high school internship program
As companies begin to consider creating a high school internship program, it’s helpful to understand how schools are preparing their students for internships. Many schools offer opportunities to focus on specific industries such as culinary arts, healthcare and more so that students can acquire hands-on skills they will need in the real world. Schools are also bringing in companies to do things like mock interviews, resume writing and job shadowing. These partnerships can be invaluable for, not only the students, but also for the schools and the companies themselves.
The panelists offered some thoughts on how employers might onboard or supervise high school interns differently than college interns and regular staff members, including:
- Holding orientation in a more relaxed setting that appeals to and better engages younger workers;
- conducting separate trainings for each high school intern to establish a connection and ensure they have a thorough understanding of expectations and have their specific questions answered;
- realizing that, for paperwork purposes, younger students may not have a photo ID, a driver’s license, and other things that are more commonly expected from older hires;
- understanding that transportation can be a challenge and helping ease this issue by providing bus passes, allowing remote working opportunities or creating ride share options;
- connecting the interns with specific employees who are excited about working with high school students and who are not biased against their younger age;
- helping interns build their “soft skills,” such as the importance of being on time, how to communicate in a professional setting, how to take constructive criticism, how to dress, and other things that usually come with experience;
- ensuring you have clearly defined projects for the interns to work on and clearly identified timeframes in which they will conduct their work; and
- checking in with your high school interns one-on-one on a regular basis, and providing “light-weight” performance reviews periodically so that they have an understanding of that part of the job process, as well as regular feedback on their performance.
All panelists advised working with a third-party intermediary group, such as Youth Opportunities Unlimited. Using a broker can help your company go through the process of creating a program and filling your intern staffing needs, as well as assisting you in overcoming any potential challenges that might exist when hiring interns from this particular age group.