Student Perceptions of Internship Opportunities

The following summary is based on interviews with two groups of students at Ronald Reagan IB High School in March of 2018.

When I’m trying to figure out what I’d like to do, I want…

  • A chance to try a number of different things without a long term commitment or jumping through a lot of hoops.
  • To sample what these jobs might be like

So far, what works best for that has been..

  • Job shadowing
  • Guest speakers who talk to us about their career paths and to give us exposure
  • The Girls in Tech program–”it engages me to go as they are just women in tech  and the rest is a mystery. Then we go and learn their path, recommendations, advice and get to ask questions. Each time it is different and we keep learning.”

When I know what I’d like to do I want…

  • A summer job that is related to my future career
  • To do things that use my skills

… because…

  • “If I’m spending my summer doing something I’m passionate about, I care about, and I can learn from then it’s not wasted time.”

What I think would work best is…

  • An internship with a mentor
  • A position where I have a chance to learn and grow
    • “I feel like if it’s an internship there should be an expectation of a learning curve.”

But there are a number of barriers to finding this type of position…

  • My age…
    • many positions are looking for interns that are at 18 or older
    • technology companies want college students
    • companies don’t prioritize younger high school students
  • I don’t have the skills they are looking for
  • It’s in the same field, but not my area of interest
    • I want to work with kids but can only get in to hospice, elderly care
  • I haven’t found an internship that matches what I want to do
    • Veterinary
    • Pediatrics
    • Law
    • Criminal Justice
    • Environmental
    • Automotive mechanics
    • Psychology
  • It’s hard to find internships in technology because companies want college students
  • High level of competition for internships
  • I don’t have the required skills
    • “I am in a tech pathway and can do programming and web design but it is not enough”
  • You have to have extensive course knowledge and they expect you to know how to do the work
  • I don’t know what options are out there…
    • “I either want to do something in art or engineering” (not having heard of industrial design).
  • It is harder to get an internship than a job
  • CNA requires Physical, flu shot, drug test, etc.
  • Transportation

Right now I find out about these opportunities from..

  • Friends
  • Job Fairs
  • Teachers
  • CP/PPS (Career Program/Personal & Professional Skills  aka Academic & Career Planning)

I’ve used Career Cruising but…

  • Career Cruising is good for College, not jobs
  • Most of the listings in INSPIRE are for Waukesha
  • I can’t (or don’t know how to) search INSPIRE for things in my neighborhood
  • I don’t really know how to use Career Cruising
  • They’ve told us how to get into INSPIRE, but not how to use it effectively
  • Where is the website for internships available to high school students?
  • Sometimes results seem random and don’t work but help you with opportunities
  • Career Cruising is only used during some parts of classes
  • We used it to do a survey, but never really dove into it.

This creates a number of problems…

  • People who are less qualified are going to stay underqualified because companies aren’t willing to invest in them.
  • We are currently taking what we can get, rather than finding something that is a good fit
  • Going the CNA route is a lot of work and students are not even sure what it is about/if it is right for them
  • People at other schools have not heard about this and they don’t have an internship support person
  • I jumped through a lot of hoops to get an internship before I realized it is not a good fit and now I feel like I have to take it
  • A lot of people don’t know about coaching and mentors–I had to find out on my own

What has helped is…

  • PPS is preparing us well with resume, cover letters and exposure to opportunities
  • Teachers we can go to.
  • CP, because PPS us jet to getting our foot in the door, while also earning college credit through its testing.


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