A paid summer internship for a high school student means so much more than spare change in their pocket. It’s an opportunity to earn and learn and can mean an off-ramp from the streets, envisioning a career path, understanding responsibility, exposure to professional culture and references, connection to a mentor and an impressive first entry on their résumé.
In a few short weeks, The Children’s Trust, Miami-Dade County government, CareerSource South Florida and Miami-Dade County Public Schools will begin their third year of collaboration to provide students ages 15-18 with productive work environments during the summer. Our combined $4 million in public funding has placed a total of 3,290 students so far. This year, we are expanding thanks to $400,000 from Royal Caribbean and $175,000 from JP Morgan Chase.
Every step of our summer internship program makes the experience meaningful and relevant to long-term employment success. It begins at school with résumé writing. Then comes the application process, the interview, a pre-job orientation and opening a bank account — all before the student takes the first step through the doors of a local business.
Finding the students is easy. There are always more applicants than there are participating businesses. That’s why we need companies large and small to step up and host an intern. It’s as simple as registering on miami.getmyinterns.org or calling the program hotline at (305) 693-3005.
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Trump International Beach Resort hosted 10 interns last summer in various departments including culinary, marketing and accounting, and staff can’t wait for the next group to arrive this summer. “These students are motivated, they want to learn, they are serious, and they go above and beyond,” says Josie Podesta-Soto, training manager at Trump International Beach Resort. “They came with great ideas and great organizational skills. They are ready, and they care about what they’re doing — we’ve even hired some of them. Everyone benefits from participating in this program.”
According to The Economic Value of Opportunity Youth, an academic study out of New York involving Columbia University, the cost of a “disconnected 16-year old” to taxpayers is $1 million during his or her lifetime. The study also asserts that American businesses and individuals are missing out on billions of dollars annually in lost revenue, earnings and increased spending on social services as young people transition into adulthood and become further disconnected from the workforce.
Even without the evidence of long-term cost savings, the benefits of young people engaged in productive work or service — rather than being disengaged and disaffected — are clear. These experiences are directly linked to higher graduation rates, better future employment prospects and increased earnings later in life.
So, give a teenager a chance this summer, and their salary is on us. A summer job may seem like a small thing, but it’s a critical entry point on the path to long-term job success. Our local economy will benefit from young people with skills and experience to compete in the workforce. We must all contribute to that.
James R. Haj is president and CEO of The Children’s Trust.