Over the next eight weeks, high schools across the country will be letting out for summer, and that means there will be plenty of teenagers with time on their hands. If that time is not filled with a summer job, it could have long-term implications for their professional lives.
"For kids who aren't going to college, getting that summer job provides them with some experience in terms of acquiring soft skills, in terms of establishing good work habits," said Alicia Modestino, an associate professor of public policy and urban affairs and economics at Northeastern University. "We've actually seen some surveys that have shown that teens who don't have those soft skills, or haven't been used to having good work habits, typically have a more difficult time holding on to a job later on."
The teen unemployment rate has been above 17 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis since May of 2008, a persistent problem the economic recovery has yet to solve. But it's a problem the National Academy Foundation (NAF) and a number of big name companies, including Verizon, Cisco Systems and Ernst & Young, have been working to address for years.
ANYTHING BUT THEORETICAL
Their solution? Provide summer internships for students who participate in NAF programs across the country.
"Internships are a cornerstone of our design and have been a cornerstone for 30 years," said NAF's President J.D. Hoye. "It's one thing to be theoretical and to imagine what it's like to be an engineer or scientist or a reporter. It's quite another to actually try to get into that experience and then understand the fundamentals of what you need to know in order to do that career or job well."
The National Academy Foundation was founded in 1982 by former Citigroup Chairman and CEO Sandy Weill. Started as a program to expose and educate New York City high school students about careers on Wall Street, it now includes programs focused on industries including technology, engineering and hospitality and tourism. NAF curricula are found in 667 schools across the country in 38 states.
The students are taught classes by professionals how what they're learning in school can be applied in the real world. The students visit the businesses that partner with NAF to get a first-hand look at what jobs are out there and, if their application is accepted, will get a paid internship from those firms, as well.
"For us, it is really the ultimate experience that makes education make sense," said Hoye, noting the internships provide an added bonus for the students. "Our model allows students to create networks of professionals that they would not otherwise have had access to."