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Wooing the elusive teenager into your talent pipeline

Schools around the nation are in various stages of starting new school years and kicking off new lessons in the 3 R’s (reading, writing, and aRithmethic).  This seems like a good time to remind our business readers of the 3Rs of work-based learning: relationships, a roadmap, and ROI for the student.  Internships and cooperative learning programs have been around nearly as long as apprenticeships. With so many demands pulling at high school students these days you can build an internship program, but it doesn’t mean you will ever host a student learner.  So to make sure your efforts to build a youth talent pipeline aren’t wasted – let’s review the 3Rs of work-based learning.


Our pandemic-era isolation magnifies my first point – teenagers thrive in a hive.  I’ll spare you the educational psychology lesson and jump straight to the key design feature your internships must have:relationships.  Students need the opportunity to learn about your company in the safety of their school community long before they walk through your doors.

Our US Military recruiters have this process down pat!  (The meet cute) Recruiters show up nonchalantly during high school career days.  (It must be fate) A few weeks later, they scheduled a time to meet with interested students in the commons area.  (Meeting the parents) Then recruiters work with students interested in staying connected to meet with their families.  (Building community together) After that, students who are still committed are then introduced to like-minded peers in their community through recruiter-organized physical training days.  These sessions are marketed as ways to help students score really well on the physical test but they also build a community of support around students looking to serve their country.  Relationships are a key component built into the military recruitment plan.

A Roadmap

Converting an intern to a full-time employee requires a plan to woo the student.  This plan needs intentional thought around the key components that a teenager will consider once they walk through your doors: culture, opportunity, and benefits.  It is very easy to hire an intern and immediately put them to work.  If they ask the right questions and meet the right people, they might gain an understanding of your culture, opportunities, and benefits – but can you guarantee that?

Before students even apply, make sure the design of your internship program ensures students are invited to your culture-building events and activities.  To help your intern become aware of the opportunities at your company, consider how you might create a rotation to expose the student to the various career paths that you offer. Make sure you have an internal plan to share all the ways your company could help the student move up the career ladder (tuition reimbursement, internal training, etc.).  All of these details go into your internship roadmap to ensure that the adults working with your interns know the game plan for converting this young talent to an employee.


Companies who start internship programs think long and hard about their own ROI before bringing youth into their workplace.  I would encourage you to think about the ROI for the student also.  ROI for a teen isn’t just money – though that is definitely a selling point.  High school youth need to see this opportunity as more valuable than a club, a sport, or another part time job.  Your internship program has to have more to offer than just a paycheck, especially if you want your interns to become employees. How can you ensure a student has resume building skills that will make them feel like their time working for you was valuable?  How can you make sure they see their supervisor or an HR representative as a resource for how to be successful in your industry?  If you aren’t sure how to build ROI for interns, ask them.  By the time you have an internship program, you probably also have a high school partner. The school would be thrilled to help you connect with students who could provide feedback on the design.  This is a great way to “casually bump into” aligned students and start building relationships.

So, school bells are ringing in all of your neighborhood schools.  It’s time to review the 3 R’s of your internship program because those teens won’t talk to just anyone.  If you need a little help wooing those elusive young adults, GPS Ed is here for you. Contact us today by filling out the form below!

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Written By

Amanda Daniels an employee of GPS Education Partners

Amanda Daniels
Curriculum and Instructional Design Director
GPS Education Partners

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