Students Need Internships In High School
Many of us who have graduated college have had at least one experience as an intern. Most of us would say that regardless of what we thought at the time, it was a good learning experience. Internships expose students to subjects and industries they may not otherwise experience. So why not begin the process of working and understanding the real world while in high school? The benefits of internships for college students are clear; and these benefits are easily transferrable to all types of students. By starting internships in high school, we'll move towards a system that combines learned knowledge with practical education to help students define their career and achieve success.
At the college level, internships are invaluable in transitioning to a paying job. Upon graduation, around 30% of seniors have job offers. This figure increases to 58% for students who have had an internship in some capacity. Interns are more likely to get a job because they have more experience, and more marketable skills that can raise their compensation.
The model of an internship program for high schoolers should be similar to those in college. The school approves the internship with a partner organization. In order for these programs to be successful, the internships must be a an extension of the student's educational journey. A fantastic example of a successful high school internship program is the Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST). A one laptop per child school, the students have a specific focus in science and technology. In these fields, internships can prepare students for college by exposing them to scenarios unable to be taught in a high school classroom.
At DSST, students apply for internships that take place on select afternoons during the week. These internships provide students experiences ranging from working in a hematology lab to teaching children how to read. Outside of a structured curriculum, internships are invaluable in preparing students for combination disciplines like biochemistry. By applying and drawing connections across subjects, students learn to problem solve in a unique way. Internships are also about about teaching students what they don't want to do. Imagine the amount of time and money wasted on college degrees that students either don't use or didn't realize they wouldn't want. Internships can help students choose their career far more effectively than classroom learning.
But it's not just careers in STEM or other fields that require a 4 year degree. We've adopted this notion that you need a degree to be successful. For many, a traditional college experience is not worth the expense. Imagine how we could use internships for trade-skills, where kids who want to be in manufacturing can learn the essentials. Or how about people who are interested in a career in the police or as a firefighter? A great model for this type of curriculum are traditional ROTC programs. Why not expand it into other fields?
If the goals of schools are to prepare the next generation for their lives outside of school, then we should be doing everything in our power to set children up for success. If we want our children to compete with children across the world, why not give them a chance to learn in the largest, most dynamic economy in the world? A classroom is a great place to learn information, but it's not a great place to apply learning. Without application, knowledge is as useless as the paper a university degree is printed on. With application, the knowledge gained provides fulfillment and develops life long skills that prepare our children for the real world.