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Dec 8, 2016

The skills gap is growing between candidates entering the workforce with a traditional college degree, and candidates recruiters are looking to hire. If your human resources team is concerned about this talent deficit, and can’t seem to find the right candidates, they might not be looking in the right places.

As the demand for young talent rises, so do the skills expectations. To ensure candidates are workforce-ready upon entering the “real world,” companies should invest in the education of future employees – years before they’re ripe for the picking.

The value of internships, from training future employees to helping young people in the community to increasing productivity, has been long documented. Perhaps it’s time to start the process of on-the-job learning earlier, turning to high school students to fill a portion of the estimated 16 million yearly internships.

By allowing high school students to bridge their classroom work with the real business world, students have the opportunity to engage with local CEOs, help to form marketing plans, build startups and learn to be better, more productive students and employees. At The Ron Rubin School for the Entrepreneur we place a high value on the importance of this type of immersive education, which culminates in an annual business plan competition where young entrepreneurs have the opportunity to win up to $5,000.

How do you get started?

Find the right programs. Finding potential interns with a drive to succeed isn’t impossible if you’re looking in the right places. Start with specialized entrepreneurial schools or business programs in local high schools.

Get the word out. Employers can work to find ways to get in front of these students to “sell” the offers of a company – a personal touch is always a good plan. If that is not possible, companies can set up meetings with professors, teachers or student advisors to spread the word. Many high schools host college fairs which can be a great place to promote internship opportunities as well. It gives all parties the opportunity for a face-to-face meeting early on to assess readiness. Seeing potential interns in their natural habitat allows employers to learn more about their academic background and the program they are participating in.

Be social. Employers might also look to the social media feeds of these entrepreneurial schools and programs, as well as posting positions to their own social media platforms. In fact, 84% of organizations are currently recruiting via social media, so why should internship recruitment be any different?

The business benefits

Brand awareness. Internships and volunteer opportunities are becoming more important for students looking to get into better post-secondary educational opportunities. While that is great for students, what’s in it for companies? Employers who look to younger students are building their brand awareness earlier and are filling up talent pipelines. Both of those are significant factors in gaining a competitive advantage. It is really a win-win for both sides.

The talent pipeline. Employers are able to take advantage of a high-potential talent pool early, and support their local high schools and communities simultaneously. Wouldn’t it be great to have a high school intern who remained with a company throughout college, and was able to enter full time employment with that company right after graduation? Not only will the student have a strong working knowledge of the company, they will be able to jump in and be productive from the start.

Decreased workload. Ensuring the internship is mutually beneficial means the company must know exactly what they need, creating a list of tasks that will decrease workload on the employer side, and create learning opportunities for the student. If a company is considering creating an internship program for its business the bar should be set high and the right places should be combed, including local high schools. They won’t regret it.