Today, the demand for educated and skilled labor has never been greater but unfortunately, given the youth employment (or unemployment) crisis we have around the world today, there are far fewer opportunities for young people to gain the required skills.
Historically the summer months were a critical time to earn extra money and gain needed skills. Additionally, summer jobs have been associated with higher graduation rates, better future employment prospects and even higher earnings later in life. But in America over the last 12 years, there has been a 40% decline in the youth summer employment rate. You may think that this phenome only impacts the youth, but the real truth of this employment shortfall has far-reaching consequences, of course for the young people, but also for our communities and the broader economy overall. Couple these statistics with the reality that many companies hesitate to hire high school students because of their preconceived notions that they are too young, require a lot of training and have no value-added skills and it makes for a depressing, although very realistic picture.
It is not a surprise that Internships are good for the person seeking the new experience (especially given the dearth of jobs available to high school and college age students) AND they can also be a boon to employers too. For the employee, an internship can provide a peek into a new career, a field of study, excellent networking in the interns’ chosen field, great on the job experience, and financial literacy as they learn how to manage their paycheck earnings. There are many practical and long term benefits for young people. Plus, consider that the cost of a disenfranchised and disconnected young person just 16 years of age, may add both taxpayer and social burden of $1 million during his or her lifetime according to statistics published in The Economic Value of Opportunity Youth, 2012 . The case seems pretty clear on the value for students, but consider this…internships are great for employers too giving the hiring company the opportunity to build brand awareness among emerging young or established consumers, build a talent pipeline that can be leveraged for years to come and add experience in areas like social media where they may need to bolster their approach to be competitive or where their current staff may have less experience. In short, it is a win-win for everyone.
Research suggests an internship can be a key ingredient to setting a student apart from other applicants. In fact, one study suggested that 90% of all respondents agreed that a high school internship could help students get into better colleges. When it comes to getting a better job after college the differentiator may also be an internship. In both cases, it’s important to stress that students should use internships as an opportunity to stretch their abilities, showcase their willingness to learn new tasks and skills. Plus, take the chance to network with colleagues. Sometimes who you know is just as important as what you know. A well-placed personal referral for a candidate goes miles in terms of breaking the tie between candidates to fill a job opening or used as recommendations for college applications.