One of the most important tools available in a corporate recruiter’s arsenal is a well-established pipeline. Campus hires, whether they’re potential internship candidates or current interns looking to transition into full-time roles, build the backbone of a company’s talent pool.
But the question arises: As the war for talent becomes more intense, are companies putting enough energy into reaching high school career counselors and students to help develop this important pipeline? It has become commonplace to build-out internship programs by hiring college and university students. However, as the search for talent continues, high school students are now being targeted to increase the quality of companies’ internship programs and future candidate pools.
Acquiring Younger Talent
A recent study conducted by Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm, surveyed employers from across the country. The study found that “half of employers are either currently accepting applications from high school students for internships or plan to this year, and nearly half of high school students are participating in internships for the purpose of advancing themselves professionally.” That means that although companies are currently developing their pipelines to include high school students, half of the high school population still remains untapped. With about 50% capacity left within the high school talent pool, companies need to begin implementing programs that attract promising high school students sooner rather than later.
The competition, of course, will heat up, making it more difficult to attract top high school talent. Companies that get ahead of the curve to create and implement a high school internship program will have a more successful recruiting outlook in the future, with a well-developed pipeline of candidates. A good starting point for employers is to engage with high school career counselors.
Benefits of High School Internships
According to the Millennial Branding survey, the top three things that high school students want to get out of internships are “new skills (92%), work experience (81%) and mentorship/networking (72%).” Each of these items is the typical result of university internship participation, and high school students are hoping for the same outcomes. New skills and work experience are concrete items that students can put on their resumes and college applications, while developing strong professional contacts early in their careers.
According to the survey, the top reasons companies are offering high school internships are to “support local high schools (46%), gain new ideas (23%) and to find future college interns (18%).” Brand recognition and employee morale increase greatly through support of local communities. High school students can also bring a fresh perspective to companies, and those students that succeed in high school internships are likely to receive offers to return for internships during their college years.
Fostering High School Internship Opportunities
Creating a program dedicated to helping high school students connect with employers is a win for both students and employers in the short and long terms. Here are three tips to start sourcing internship opportunities for your high school students:
Build relationships with local employers.
Although many high schools may not have as many dedicated resources as a university, you can create a process for sharing available internship opportunities with your students and can aid in recruiting logistics. An effective long-term relationship with local employers and recruiters will help build student interest in future career options and build brand awareness and goodwill among your school community.
Use a company’s philanthropic strategies to drive student interest.
Participating in charitable work can pay dividends for both companies and students. Company-sponsored events have the potential to draw high school volunteers who value philanthropic activities. Some companies may look to mine interns from these volunteer pools so they can hire engaged, socially conscious interns, which gives students valuable experience to include on their college applications and resumes. Similarly, once a student intern is on board, they may be able to benefit from expanding their network of contacts, as well as participating as a paid volunteer for an activity the company supports.
Consider internship roles that align with skills your students already possess, or can easily gain. Many companies often start by offering pay-based basic administration and data entry roles, as well as event staffing work, for the high school intern workforce. This type of work is a foot in the door and introduces a student to a company, builds loyalty, provides real-world work experience, and allows the company to determine if the student is a good culture fit and has a strong work ethic.
Proactive Internship Strategies
High school students are hungry for meaningful work to help shape their future career objectives and both school career counselors and companies need to take advantage of this willingness to work.
Operating procedures for university internship programs can be amended and adopted for high school programs to provide schools and companies with simple development and implementation processes to follow. With several undeniable benefits to both companies and students, the trend of recruiting high school interns will soon become a part of every company’s recruiting foundation within the talent acquisition process. This trend will lead to more communication between HR professionals, recruiters and high school career counselors, and open the door to stronger professional development experiences for students and greatly expand the shrinking talent pool for many companies.
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