Photo of a young employee with her boss.Photo of a young employee with her boss.
Ecosystems + Economies

Why More Small Businesses Should Hire Summer Interns

Internships not only serve the employer and the employed, but they're also great for building local community.

Many entrepreneurs overlook the opportunity to hire an intern before taking on employees. 

Interns can be a great resource for small businesses in need of help.

With the summer approaching, we wanted to make the case for why local businesses should consider summer interns as a serious labor option. When paid fairly, interns can be a convenient resource for local businesses, and the practice of hiring local youth builds connections within a community.

1. Internships are a low-stakes, low-cost source of quality labor.

Interns do not come with the heavy legal baggage associated with a salaried staff member. Paid interns are often cheaper to hire than staff, are more flexible, and come with less commitment from either party. You can choose which kind of employee they are (W-2 or 1099) and how many hours you’d like them to work.

Many young people are looking for ways to prove themselves and kick the tires on their skills. If you hire well, you can find high-quality labor in an intern, and even a future employee.

2. An internship broadens a young person's perspective on what success looks like.

The career and life paths that high school students are taught to regard as “successful” is quite narrow (doctor, lawyer, business executive, etc). But internships can quickly broaden that scope and get young people to be more imaginative about what their life could look like.

Samin Nosrat, the famous cookbook author and culinary educator, only considered a career in food after doing a kitchen internship at a local restaurant. Grace Underfanger, our featured entrepreneur of the month, broke into the design industry through an internship at a local print shop.

Earning an income and simultaneously broadening one’s perspective on life is a unique opportunity that internships offer young people.

3. Internships build connection within a local community.

When local businesses offer internships, it forges connection between young people and the local business environment.

Many communities face the serious problem of “brain-drain,” where their most talented youth move to superstar cities like New York, Los Angeles, or up-and-coming areas like Austin or Nashville.

One way to prevent this from happening is to integrate a community’s youth into the local business environment. If young people feel like they are making a place better, especially a place they already know, it will feel incredibly rewarding. 

Many community leaders wonder how to generate the energy needed to foster a “startup culture,” an environment where everyone is excited about entrepreneurship and building new things. Engaging youth, the powerhouse of a community’s energy, is one of the best ways to accomplish that.

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