More High School Students Taking Internships

LITTLE ROCK, AR - when you think of interns, odds are college students come to mind. But today, high school kids are going out for a taste of the "real world" and while it's a good way for younger students to fine-tune their areas of interest -- for some it's another item on the long list of activities to squeeze into already packed schedules.

Lane Sutton is a familiar face at his high school. Between schoolwork, his duties include class treasurer and other extracurricular activities.

"There's so much to balance, so many different priorities and tasks to do," he says.

He's a popular face around the office, too, where he recently learned the ropes in the real world as a marketing intern.

"I was able to see all of the components of a company working together," says Lane.

Lots of students like Lane are getting an early start in the workplace. According to a recent survey, nearly 50-percent of all high school aged respondents are doing internships, and they're not just serving up coffee or shuffling papers.

"Companies are looking to tap this, this new generation in order to fuel what they do with technology in the workplace. Seventy-four percent of those companies surveyed said that they're recruiting social media marketing interns," says Dan Schawbel with Millennial Branding.

Lane says he put his social media skills to work, tracking the company's online engagement and interaction. And, he encourages others to intern, not just for the work experience, but also for the connections.

"The other colleagues and people you meet from it, you never know how those connections can get you really far in life and in your future," he says.

Developmental Psychologist Marilyn Price-Mitchell believes the benefits of interning in high school go beyond networking. She says students develop skills like organization and strategic thinking that they can't learn in a classroom. And, for high school kids, internships are less about finding a career track and more about finding themselves.

"They begin to know who they are, what their abilities are, and they begin to believe in those abilities so that they can go out and meet whatever goals they set," she says.

The internship coordinator at Lane's school says that result is clear among her students.

"These students come back to school and they're more focused, they're more excited about what they're learning. Suddenly, the real world is real to them," says High School Internship Coordinator Lori Curtis.

But with all the pressure on high school students today, is an internship just one more thing to worry about? 

Dr. Price-Mitchell discourages kids from looking at them as resume builders.

"The drawback here is that we look at internships like we've been looking at community service, so that you have to have one in order to get into college, instead of paying attention to the meaning behind the work," she says.

As for Lane, he says in today’s competitive world, every activity, including an internship, helps.

"You have to differentiate yourself and, you know, that's why its so important to do a lot," he says.

According to Dr. Price-Mitchell, the right internship involves three things: the work must be meaningful, it should provide some real-world challenges to the student, and there should be adults in the office willing to mentor the intern. 

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