Internships are unique opportunities for students to experience “hands-on” learning in the area of their career interests and apply classroom learning in a real-life environment. The benefits of summer internships for students include—but are certainly not limited to—the following aspects:
Learning more about their career interests: Internships are one of the best ways for students to truly learn about their career interests (or even discover their interests!) from a real-world perspective.
Apply knowledge learned in the classroom. Again, there’s a big difference between learning about strategies and tactics and actually applying them. Interning for an organization helps students learn how their classroom knowledge applies to real situations and reinforces concepts taught in classes.
Gain valuable work experience and employable skills. Internships help students get this real-world experience while still in school. Learning new skills in an internship can help them in future employment opportunities (and they look great in their resume!)
Gain valuable networking contacts and obtain references for future opportunities. Another benefit to completing an internship is the contacts they can make. Very often the internship supervisor can serve as reference or provide a recommendation letter for college and scholarships applications or for future job opportunities
Learn about the world of work: Experience first-hand what it’s like to work in a particular career field, interact with supervisors and co-workers, etc.
Meet peers with similar interests: Internship programs can introduce students to other students who share their interest.
All that said the reality is that there are some students that have difficulties with accepting unpaid summer internships and it is due to financial limitations: they simply can't afford to work for free. They are mostly low income students (most of our student body at Franklin High School receives free or reduced price lunch) that feel the responsibility to financially help their family when the school year has finished.
We are seeing students with great potential, good grades, very college and career oriented that regardless their career interests end up accepting a summer part time job in fast food and declining a great unpaid internship because they need to make money to help their families.
Putting our young people (mainly first generation students, low income, teen parents, minorities, etc.) in the situation where they have to decide between invest their energy in developing professionally and learning technical skills or making some dollars to contribute to the household isn’t fair. Unpaid summer internships unintentionally reinforce already existing socio-economic gaps.
By providing stipends to those students, we would be increasing their opportunities to accept summer internships and still contribute to their family and their community.
College & Career Coordinator
Franklin High School