Hear the word “intern,” and you might picture someone answering phones. But through the robust career readiness program at Belmont Charter Network, our students have done much more: studied animals at the zoo, toured film sets, and helped woodworkers make furniture.
Through internships and job training programs with local businesses and entrepreneurs, our remarkable students have thrived, tried out different careers and awakened their passions — all while gaining real world experience to help prepare them for life after high school.
But none of this is possible without partnership from the business community. It takes real leaders who can see the potential in our kids, leaders who understand that by helping our scholars explore career paths, they’re investing in their own future workforce.
We need the business community to provide hands-on learning, chances to practice interview skills, job opportunities, and accessible pathways to those jobs.
We know it takes a village to raise a child. Here at Belmont, we often say we need to build a bigger village. The business community can help by investing in the lives of young people and partnering with schools to offer high-quality volunteer, job shadowing, and internship opportunities. By doing so, businesses can also address their own staffing challenges.
At Belmont, career readiness starts well before high school, with goals set in each grade. Students need more than college counseling and job fairs: They need individualized career planning, service learning and assignments to help them find the right path. (Each Belmont scholar commits to a four-year graduation project to help identify their strengths and interests.)
We can support our students with this work, but we can only take them so far. We need the business community to provide hands-on learning, chances to practice interview skills, job opportunities, and accessible pathways to those jobs.
City leaders understand this. Last fall, Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson proposed — and voters approved — changing the city charter to make it easier to fill City jobs by broadening the hiring preference to graduates from the School District of Philadelphia’s dozens of career technical education programs, which include trades like automotive technology, plumbing and agriculture. Though charter school students don’t have access to these programs, this is still a first step toward creating a pipeline to well-paying, union-represented government jobs.
Studies show that students who complete internships are also much more likely to be offered jobs
National thought leaders are also having this conversation. Cheryl A. Oldham, vice president of education policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a 2022 interview, “The people who are real visionaries can see it and understand why it’s important that they’re working to build a future for all kids, the people who will come later to your place of business.”
Students also need exposure to careers in banking, consulting, medicine, hospitality and the arts, and we have been honored to work with businesses in some of these fields. Our employer partners, Belmont scholars and Belmont educators have all learned so much from these partnerships.
We’ve learned how important the relationships with employers are to our students. We’ve learned that forging bonds between teenagers and adults outside of school is a way to foster understanding and growth on both sides, and a way for students to develop the building blocks of a career network when it’s time for them to seek full-time employment.
Working with high schoolers is a way to start lining up qualified workers who can someday soon become valuable members of their workforce.
We’ve seen that the best lessons are learned when mistakes are made, and when students are coached through it and given a chance to make it right.
When students feel trusted, it inspires confidence. Most students will go above and beyond if they are encouraged and held to a high standard. Studies show that students who complete internships are also much more likely to be offered jobs, something we know firsthand from seeing many of our student interns receive offers for summer or part-time employment.
A small business owner or a CEO might ask, What’s in it for me? But those who have met our students know the answer. It doesn’t take long to see that working with high schoolers is a way to start lining up qualified workers who can someday soon become valuable members of their workforce.
Business leaders and all employers in the city of Philadelphia, we ask you to join us by opening your doors to the next generation. It’s not only the right thing to do: It’s good business.
Malaun Yuille is Director of College & Career Services and Noelle Kellich is Director of EmployerPartnerships & Outreach at Belmont Charter School Network.
The Citizen welcomes guest commentary from community members who represent that it is their own work and their own opinion based on true facts that they know firsthand.
MORE ON HELPING STUDENTS SUCCEED
Students in a high school internship program practice a presentation to a small business. Photo by Flipsnack on Unsplash