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Work-based youth learning programs can augment talent development strategies, report says

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Businesses can build bridges between education and industry by offering work-based learning programs, while boosting their talent development strategies as well, according to a report by American Student Assistance.

In a survey of 500 U.S. businesses, 86% of those with high school interns said their program aimed to strengthen their industry pipeline as a whole, and 81% said they filled their employment pipeline with diverse candidates due to internships.

“With a better understanding of the benefits realized by providing access to the workplace for those younger than 18, as well as how to overcome common challenges, the business sector will be well-positioned to play an equal role alongside education in preparing today’s youth for tomorrow’s jobs,” ASA said in a statement.

Although the number of businesses that offer high school internships has increased during the past five years, few students actually take part in one, the report found. Survey respondents said they’d be more likely to start an internship program if they had an increase in funding for intern pay and the ability to identify a suitable workload for interns.

Businesses with high school internships reported additional benefits to their talent development strategies. About 78% said they enhanced their diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives; 77% said they used interns to build the pipeline for entry-level positions; and 65% said interns reduced the workload of their full-time employees.

However, internship programs can pose challenges, survey respondents said, such as determining the work to give interns, attracting qualified candidates and scheduling around interns’ availability. Employers also pointed to concerns related to many interns’ lack of transportation to the workplace, a lack of staff resources to manage interns and a lack of funding for an internship program.

At the same time, many businesses are finding solutions such as using state funding to subsidize intern pay, according to the report. Companies are also participating in or launching other work-based learning activities, such as career fairs, mentorships, job shadowing, apprenticeships, informational interviews, field trips, open house days, classroom presentations and career-related competitions.

Some industries are leading the way. For instance, as labor constraints continue, the U.S. manufacturing industry is collaborating with high schools, community colleges and economic development groups to build awareness and interest. Companies offer facility tours, day-long workshops and courses in high-demand areas such as welding and machine technologies.

Although U.S. middle school and high school students display an aptitude for in-demand careers, they’re often not inclined to pursue those occupations due to a lack of exposure, according to a YouScience report. College-to-career pathways, internship programs and on-the-job shadowing could close the gap in industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, technology and finance, the report concluded.

Internship programs can also boost company reputation among future job seekers and prescreen candidates for future openings, Mariel Smith, partner at Hall Booth Smith, P.C., previously wrote for HR Dive; employers can create an effective program by planning ahead for onboarding, focusing on training and finding ways to help their interns feel like part of the team.

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