Whether you’re a parent hunting down internship opportunities for your children, or an eager student trying to spice up your college resume, you’re bound to have hit a roadblock. A mere 4.2% of internships are started in high school, even though students can benefit from being exposed to a real workplace earlier on to minimize ‘culture shock’. A recent survey by Millennial Branding and Internships.com found that 77 percent of high school students have expressed interest in volunteering to gain work experience, compared to only 63 percent of college students. 

It’s common knowledge that internships provide numerous benefits to students. After all, students who have completed an internship are 15% less likely to be unemployed in the first years after college. In addition to discovering new career paths, an internship serves as a necessary transition from the classroom to a corporate work environment. Giving this opportunity to high school students means that they can learn about the expectations of a professional workplace, as well as hone essential soft skills such as tenacity, empathy, leadership and patience (so needed in today’s increasingly hostile and stressful social climate).

Graduates commonly possess a skills gap at their first job positions despite all the work that has gone into attaining their degrees. Training is usually required to bring them up to speed and enable them to fare well at the job. This appears to be a step backwards as much resources, including time and money, have already gone into one’s tertiary education years. One would expect a seamless transition to the career world, yet the lack of accessibility to practical experiences has led to an unnecessarily severe gap between the employer’s expectations and the employee’s ability.

Another unfortunate disparity exists between gendered lines – 75.5% of those participating in unpaid internships are women. In a system where all students have equal opportunities to apply for high quality internships, differences along racial, socioeconomic, and gendered lines wouldn’t exist. It isn’t just a shortage of internships that leads to this discrepancy; the current culture surrounding education hyperfixates on maintaining a 4.0 GPA. This means that other important aspects – such as valuable work experiences – often get overlooked. With the numerous benefits of internships, you would expect the demand to skyrocket. However, statistics suggest that only 4.2% of internships are started in high school.

Students aren’t the only ones benefiting from internships. Recently, many businesses have turned their attention to the teenage demographic. Having direct input from eager teenage students could lead to real, actionable change in businesses. With programs such as digital internships, costs can also be kept low, which would increase the attractiveness of high school internship programs. 

Times are changing. With a new generation of increasingly tech-savvy and job-ready students, it should be our top priority to revamp and evolve our education system to reflect and support this positive change.