As a business owner, you probably want employees to have more than the mandatory competencies and required education.
You want employees who are diligent, confident team players who work well with others.
Unfortunately, school alone does not always instill such desirable traits in employees. Future workers sometimes require training to develop and apply skill such as communication, networking, team building and conflict management.
On-the-job training is difficult though, particularly for small businesses where personal productivity is paramount. Neither you nor your leadership team can spare time to teach employees skills they should have developed before entering the workforce.
Internships allow you to develop future workers with the skills that you value most, without the risk of incurring the significant costs you would have in recruiting and replacing the interns as regular employees. Interns can also get a better feel for their compatibility with their chosen career choice in general and with you as a potential employer.
Summer internships for high school students can be especially fruitful for a small business because you can often get affordable help immediately, while also developing talent for your future needs. You may also be able to subsidize part of a teenager’s pay by participating in a youth enrichment program, like Fresh Futures in Jacksonville.
Offered through the local nonprofit organization FreshMinistries, the Fresh Futures program helps more than 100 children a year, providing them with valuable skills and job training that will help them succeed in the workplace and in life.
“This is a chance for employers to give high school kids a chance to build their resumes right before they go off to college and to give them some real world working experience,” Fresh Futures Youth Program Coordinator Alexis Howard said. The summer internship is the culmination of the program, which spans the school year.
“We spend the first part getting students to understand themselves and how they operate so that they’ll be able to better deal with other people in the workplace,” Howard said. “Then we move into career exploration and job preparedness.”
Students can earn a six-week paid summer internship at a local business for minimum wage. Fresh Futures pays a portion of the student’s wages and includes financial literacy training in its enrichment program so that interns can better manage their finances.
“Employers say that students come prepared,” Howard said. “They can put them right to work because we’ve taken care of the foundational piece for them.”
Jacksonville City Councilman Jim Love said he had a positive experience when he hired a Fresh Futures student to work at his State Farm Insurance office in Riverside and he plans to participate again. “It gives students the opportunity to learn valuable business skills, and any time you can give a young person actual workplace experience, it’s worthwhile,” Love stated in a testimonial for the program.
Nationally, from April to July 2014, the number of employed youth 16 to 24 years old increased by 2.1 million to 20.1 million, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Fresh Futures helps students find employment in corporations, nonprofits and small businesses.
“We have people from all over give these kids the opportunity to explore different career options,” Howard said. “Employers really like programs where they can support the community by helping children and youth.”
Now in its fifth year, Fresh Futures matches students with employers based on their career interests and skill sets. But unlike in past years when Fresh Futures organized a career fair and played a large role in placing the interns it is now up to the students to schedule interviews with prospective employers and to attain their internships.
“The process will be a little more hands-on between the two parties,” Howard said. “This has to be as much of a real world experience for students as possible.”
The more realistic the hiring process for the internship, the more practical the experience will be for students and employers—and the more valuable it will be in helping businesses and employees succeed in the long-term.
Tapping Into the Youth Workforce with Minimal Risk
Career development activities like internships and volunteering can help high school students get into a better college or find future employment, according to a study conducted by Internships.com and Millennial Branding.
Here are some additional findings from the study, which was based on a survey of 4,769 students (172 high school students and 4,597 college students) and 326 employers from across the country in January 2014.
- 50% of employers were currently accepting applications from high school students or planned to start an internship program in 2014.
- 90% of companies agreed that completing high school internships could give those students a competitive advantage when looking for a college internship or full-time time job, and could influence acceptance into a better college.
- The top benefits that high school students seek from internships are new skills (92%), work experience (81%) and mentorship/networking (72%).
- The top qualities that companies look for when recruiting high school students are interview performance (50%), a high academic performance (41%) and references (36%).
- Companies offer high school internships primarily to support local high schools (46%), gain new ideas (23%) and to find future college interns (18%).
- 70% of companies say that high school students who complete their programs are either very or completely likely to eventually land a college internship with their company.
- 45% of employers say that high school internships will very likely or completely likely turn into a full time job at their company.
Source: “High School Careers” study by Internships.com and Millennial Branding.