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Listening to High Schoolers to Open Doors to Work-Based Learning


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Spotlight on High School Internships
FEBRUARY 22, 2021

Listening to High Schoolers to Open Doors to Work-Based Learning

As high school students begin to make plans for the summer of 2021, many believe they must choose between two objectives: a paycheck or experience. Our whitepaper, “Spotlight on High School Internships: Opening Doors to In-Demand Skills, Social Capital, and Greater Career Certainty,” explores how we can align ‘finding a job’ with ‘finding the right path for me,’ and support programs that expand work-based learning opportunities for high school students.

Now more than ever, high schoolers need real, competency-based experiences to prepare them for the realities of the working world, but among the 840 high school students we surveyed, only 2% had participated in one. Meanwhile, 87% of high schoolers list earning a paycheck as the top factor when looking for a job.

We can improve high school work-based learning participation by listening to their concerns and questions and ensuring there are appropriate experiences available for them. Based on ASA’s survey findings, here are three ways to open up work-based learning experiences this summer for high schoolers:

  1. Share experiences and information about paid internships. In Skills for Rhode Island’s Future PrepareRI summer internship program, 89% of the nearly 500 high school students who completed a paid internship said they believe the skills they learned during the experience will help them in the future. And when asked, 94% of teens surveyed were either somewhat or very interested in an internship that is paid.
  2. Demonstrate flexibility and support for students during their internships. Two top concerns among high schoolers were access to reliable transportation or living too far away from an internship. Employers can address this by continuing virtual internships beyond COVID-19, when possible. A former PrepareRI intern said, “Having a virtual internship was great because it gave me something productive to do with my time and an opportunity to learn during the pandemic. It was also a helpful experience to learn how to work virtually.”
  3. Work-based learning experiences are not just for post-secondary students. These experiences are an opportunity for high schoolers to explore their interests prior to committing to an education and career path. Unsurprisingly, nearly 80% of students who completed a summer internship in 2020, reported learning about their unique skills and interests in a way that could change their future choices.

And while we know it is on employers to ensure such opportunities exist and up to high schoolers to do the work to seek out available opportunities, by listening to high schoolers and stepping up to provide more work-based learning opportunities, we can energize students and demonstrate that they can earn and learn this summer.

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