Work-Based Learning: Hiring High School and/or College Students for Internships

As an Employer Talent Pipeline Lead for the past four years, I have had the fascinating experience of watching employers throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region problem solve their way through a pandemic, rapid and volatile political change, and a talent crisis such as they have not seen before. My job is to help businesses obtain and retain needed talent.

The talent crisis solutions businesses are implementing are as diverse as they can be. Hiring high school and/or college students for internships is one potential solution now that also can become part of a solution to a business’s long-term pipeline plan. Young talent can bring a youthful and fresh perspective to a workplace as well as an increase in productivity. Many interns become permanent employees.


Internships are supervised, structured learning experiences in a professional setting that allow students to gain valuable work experience in a student’s chosen field of study. Internships require a minimum of 120 hours (typically, at least 10 hours per week during the fall and spring and either part-time or full-time during the summer). During the internship a student is often still taking coursework to complete their educational program. For a business that has not hired interns or has been out of the game for a while, the Employer Talent Pipeline has assembled some resources to help get started and answer questions about the process.

Resources for Hiring Interns

A new webinar is available, featuring Celena Mills, Educational Consultant in the Office of CTE at the State of Michigan Department of Education. Celena’s presentation is concise with the information provided and it offers several links for those that want to delve deeper into the process of hiring and developing interns within their business. The webinar can be found at Business Resources – STEM Pipeline.

On the same webpage you can find several very helpful documents such as a Getting Started Checklist, a Myths vs Facts informational sheet, and a Contacts List for high school and college work-based learning coordinators. The Contacts List is highly valuable as these are the folks with the important knowledge. They know the process inside and out and will assist each business with the process. The work-based learning coordinators do much of the paperwork and keep the real hands-on training work for the business mentors.

Any business who would like to talk more about hosting high schools or college students as interns, apprentices, or co-ops can contact me at [email protected].

Benefits of Internship

Work-based learning has many benefits for students. Studies show that high quality experiences in a workplace setting with well trained and prepared mentors, improves academic performance, builds strong work ethic, and improves soft skills such as communication and problem-solving.

Work-based learning comes in many forms including classroom visitations/presentations, video presentations, business tours or job shadows, with an internship or co-op experience providing the most thorough immersion into career exploration and preparation. The value of an internship experience has been long recognized by businesses as highly valuable with there being more requests for interns than local educators can provide. Interns need to have the required education and skills to move as seamlessly as possible in a workplace. Students who have prepared themselves with communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills will be more prepared to meet business needs than those who have not given preparation for work much thought.

Students who participate in an internship or co-op often find that the experience opens other opportunities, possibly a job offer or an offer to provide more support for education from the host business who desires to keep the student with their organization. Or, as with the example, below, an exciting new opportunity emerges via a connection made during the internship.

Ty Jarvis, a student at SVSU, was hired as an intern this past summer. Ty expressed his thoughts on his internship . . .

“I was offered a summer internship to work with the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance (GLBRA) and STEM@SVSU working on STEM-related efforts that helped me gain experience, knowledge, and ultimately resulted in additional opportunities for me.

My summer internship experience was wonderful, filled with opportunities to broaden my skill set, attend regional events and meet new people. Had it not been for the opportunities gained in my internship, I would not have had my upcoming internship with CSO International and I would not have had job shadowing experiences to assist me as I decide on a career.” You can read Ty’s full blog post here: Work Base Learning Blog – Ty Jarvis – STEM Pipeline.

Every high school student should have multiple opportunities for work-based learning as they test out who they are, who they want to be and what the world has to offer.

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