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Why You Should Expand Your Internship Offerings to Include High School Students

The plurality of thought will pay dividends.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When 85 percent of jobs are filled through social connections, corporate roles are often inaccessible to people without the “social capital” to get their foot in the door. Financial institutions have an opportunity to evaluate their existing hiring efforts and consider new ways of making tangible adjustments. 

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Take me and Destiny Fernandez for example. One of us has over two decades of experience in finance as an asset manager who wants to help his firm commit to building an enduring pipeline of diversity. The other is a 17-year-old high schooler from the Bronx in New York City who wanted to hone her business skills and develop connections critical to a successful career trajectory.

Our goals are not unique. It is clear that countless organizations seek diversity while youth from underserved communities seek opportunity.

We were pleased to find First Workings, a nonprofit that trains and places diverse high school students from communities that are underserved in paid internships at major companies in their respective industries. Companies in Manhattan like Morgan Stanley, PJT Partners, KPMG, NASDAQ and my own, MidOcean Partners, utilize the nonprofit’s interns to generate a deeper pipeline of more diverse talent. Over 90 percent of First Workings program participants are Black or Brown. Nearly 70 percent identify as female. 

Research has proven that more diverse workplaces lead to benefits across the board, making it increasingly imperative to seek a plurality of thought and experiences when it comes to the hiring process. Populating your workforce with a diversity of age, background, education, race, ethnicity and gender might require going beyond typical hiring pools to fill vacant entry level and internship positions.

Related: 5 Ways Your Small Business Will Benefit From Hiring Interns

After working together this summer, it has become clear that companies should consider starting the pipeline to diversity far earlier than the status quo: Turn to high schoolers from communities that are underrepresented to fill vacant internship positions and generate a deep, diverse pool of talent.  

Job offer rates are highly correlated to internship experience, so it is wise to invest in a more diverse internship pool. In a recent survey 91 percent of students claimed that connections were the most important factor in landing an internship. Of those who had previous internships, 43 percent relied on family connections to land an interview.

Related: Here Are Some of the Coolest, Craziest Internships Out There

This is a simple equation: There is a supply of young, diverse candidates seeking opportunity and social capital through paid internships and a demand for plurality of thought and experience in financial institutions.

This summer, Destiny and I discussed critical professional skills and business trends. We explored research strategies and sifted through an investment deck of mid-sized companies that could strengthen and diversify our institution’s portfolio. 

We landed on the beauty space with a specific focus on innovative, female-founded Indie brands. Our meetings led our firm to explore investing in a company of hair accessories that caters to women of color.

The insight from a high school intern led to an incredibly promising dialogue about investing in a company that would in all likelihood have been overlooked. And a 17-year-old high schooler from the Bronx led the charge, from pitching the investment opportunity to the entire firm, to reaching out and interacting with the founder. The greater the variety of experiences an intern has on your team, the broader their understanding of potential successful investments will be. 

Our experience doesn't have to be an outlier. The opportunity is there, and we encourage other corporations and young, diverse talent to seek out similar relationships. 

Related: Where to Intern If You Really Want to Be an Entrepreneur

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