Hiring High Schoolers as Interns?
April 20, 2012 3:29 PM   Subscribe

Let's say I wanted to hire a high school student for the summer as an intern (probably paid). What are the differences between this and dealing with college students? How does age affect things? Parents? Expectations? Etc.

I don't have any specific plans to do this right now, but I'm just curious in case it comes up at some point in the future.

Also, "intern" may be the wrong work. "Summer employee" might be better? I don't know.
posted by chasing to Work & Money (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In my experience: high school students expect things to be laid out for them. If they miss a day of class, a good student will come ask what they missed. A normal student may only come ask or complain when they see a zero on their assignment. A university student knows that professors don't baby you and have (hopefully) learned that they need to be the ones who care about their success.

I think it depends on the nature of the work, but you could expect a high school student to need more supervision and feedback. As long as expectations are clear and the student isn't being forced into a job by a parent who doesn't want them on the couch all summer, I can't see too many issues arising.
posted by sarae at 4:00 PM on April 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Are there any additional legal elements to consider if they're under 18?
posted by chasing at 4:04 PM on April 20, 2012

This is really hard to answer without more specifics of what you are looking for and what the internship/job requires of the student. A lot will depend on the student, and frankly, there isn't that much of a difference between a high school senior and a college freshman.

As for the difference between intern and job - an internship may require or be eligible for school credit and be supervised by the school in addition to you. I believe everyone should be paid for their work as well, but you can probably pay less for an intern. The intern will probably have an interest in the profession and will require mentoring and a higher level project in addition to whatever basic tasks you are looking to have them preform. If you are offering the work just as a summer job you can set the tasks and leave it at that.

At that level, they are likely to not have experience and you will need to teach them to file, copy, fax etc. and need to supervise them pretty closely. Any job/internship is likely to go much more smoothly if you are upfront about hours, tasks, expectations etc. from the begining.

I've had interns at both levels and am happy to discuss this more if you'd like - memail me.
posted by cestmoi15 at 4:05 PM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Depending on where you live, there are likely hour limits, a curfew, different minimum wage levels.

But my experience echos those above. Lots of direction and hand-holding and supervision required.
posted by k8t at 5:19 PM on April 20, 2012

You may be confusing yourself by using the term "intern" instead of just "employee". If you want an employee you can just assign tasks and hire whoever can do them. As mentioned above, there's not much difference between a high school senior and a college freshman. In any case, their parents should not have any involvement with you directly at all. If you're not paying them they are called a volunteer. Interns (around here) get required credits for their diplomas by doing placements or internships, so they have very clear learning goals that they must meet. The placement employer must therefore agree to make sure they have certain opportunies, specific exposures, and so on. In my workplace, our students are sometimes given some kinds of opportunities before some staff because we have made agreements with schools regarding their students. It's a different kind of committment than a summer employee or a volunteer, so make sure you know what you want.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:52 PM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Legally, it depends a LOT on your state. In Ohio I was a high school graduate at 16, but to get a job I had to go back to my county of residence (75 miles from where I was going to college) to get a work permit for work on campus. I couldn't start before 7am, I had to take lunch breaks sooner than everyone else, and three fourths of the jobs in the Wendy's I worked at, I couldn't do, because they involved a piece of equipment state law forbade me to touch. I still get a funny vibe looking at meat slicers, after that summer of "UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES EVEN MAKE FREAKING EYE CONTACT WITH THE MEAT SLICER IT'S A FIVE THOUSAND DOLLAR FINE" kind of thinking. As a result, I did a LOT of salad preparation and mopping (the lettuce-slicer thing had age no restrictions.)

If you're in New York, check this out. Otherwise Google "[state name] child labor" and see what you come up with.
posted by SMPA at 7:38 PM on April 20, 2012

You might get better results if you give a little more information about the type of work you'd expect this intern to do. Hiring a high school student for food service is very different from letting the vice president's darling sit in on your meetings is very different from getting a fashionista into the mail room. I don't even know if the last one make any sense, but maybe you understand my point anyway.
posted by d. z. wang at 8:27 PM on April 20, 2012

Response by poster: I'm an independent developer. I work on technology projects that tend to be on the creative end of the spectrum. Social media. Games. Apps. Etc.

So it'd be for projects related to that. But, like I said, I don't have a specific job or anything. But it does seem like there are good roles in this type of work for high schoolers. Especially ones interested in exploring this field themselves.

posted by chasing at 11:14 PM on April 20, 2012

I had software development internships during the summers after my junior and senior years in high school (age 17 and 18) at a company that hired several high school interns and a few more college age interns. I impressed the people I worked with enough to keep getting invited back for internships as I got older, as did one of the other high school interns, while another intern was a total disaster. I'd say that overall we produced about the same quality of work as the younger college age interns for less money. The hard part about hiring high school age interns will be finding them. Ask local teachers for recommendations or spend some time volunteering with FIRST or a programming competition for students or some other activity for tech-minded students. The smart, experienced, dedicated kids will stick out and if you're lucky you'll be able to find someone who will produce some decent code for you.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 7:25 AM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

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