Austin Hill

But why most “volunteerism” and “interning” be so separate? Why, when we commonly think of college students as being good for internships, must we think of junior high and high school kids as only good for non-profit “volunteerism?”

It’s time to begin thinking in terms of “volunteer interning” – that is, getting school kids in the door at both commercial businesses and non-profit organizations, to offer help when and where they can, but to also learn as much as they can. As both a parent and a business owner, I’ve had some experience with this.

When, as a 7th grader my son went to his junior high school teacher and said “I’d like to complete my volunteerism assignment at a commercial business,” he was initially met with explanations as to why that was not acceptable.

But after a few parent-teacher meetings and with some careful planning and navigation, my son’s “volunteer internship” went on to be a great success, not only paying great dividends for him but also changing some hearts and minds among the school staff.

America desperately needs to raise up new generations of young people who both appreciate, and understand for –profit, private enterprise, and getting kids in the door at such operations is a good start. But consider and follow these guidelines, so as to avoid hardship down the line.

A) Parents must take the lead on this - school counselors are accustomed to getting students involved in charity efforts, but generally not getting kids placed in "internships" in for profit businesses. Moms and dads have to take the initiative to get their kids involved in this type of endeavor -just as they might do with their kids’ sports activities – and not simply “leave it to the school.” If after getting a volunteer internship set-up it makes sense to involve school officials, then so be it. But parents who want this for their child need to plan on initiating it.

B) Keep it within the confines of the law - parents and business owners must investigate and see if an internship for an under-age minor is legal in their jurisdiction, and under what terms. In today’s climate business owners are always at risk for city, county, state and federal authorities fining them for being “out of compliance,” even for the most innocuous of matters. Parents and business owners should seek legal guidance to make sure their plans for a volunteer internship are in full compliance.

C) Parents and kids, both, should search for opportunities – a child who is sufficiently articulate and confident to “cold call” a business is a child who stands out among others. But parents should guide the process of finding a business that will help develop an internship, and take full responsibility for the child’s safety in the process.

America’s economic future is daunting, especially for younger generations. Are today’s parents willing to take the initiative and try to make things better?


Austin Hill

Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.