Student Intern Myths

Empowering employers to create internships for high school students is no easy task.  It’s even harder when there are so many myths around what high school students are able and permitted to do the in the workplace. Over the last two years of developing and launching Greater Peoria Works, we’ve had to confront and address these myths to increase both the quantity and diversity of career development opportunities for our region’s high school students.
Here are some of the most common myths – busted!

Myth 1 – “Students under 18 cannot work in our workplace!”

 Certainly there are unique challenges posed in certain industries regarding youth employment, but we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater here!  In Illinois, state law actually allows individuals to begin obtaining gainful employment at age 16.
Safety is of course a priority and there are some occupational responsibilities that youth cannot perform.  But for the most part, it’s simply a matter of reviewing your corporate policy and finding valuable intern opportunities that make sense for your company.

Myth 2 – “My insurance policies don’t allow students under 18 to work at my company!”

While it’s always a good idea to review the specifics of your insurance, chances are that if your intern is compensated hourly as a ‘regular’ employee then they will be covered by your existing insurance policies.
With additional mindfulness to any specific training and safety requirements necessary for certain responsibilities, your intern should be covered!  For those unique unpaid or stipend-based internships, they may take more exploration with your insurance provider, but for those short-term or job shadow experiences, waivers can be utilized to help address any insurance gaps or concerns.

Myth 3 – “Students can’t really add value to our team or learn anything new in a four-week internship.”

A Greater Peoria Works intern learns the ropes in the logistics department at UnityPoint Health.
A Greater Peoria Works intern learns the ropes in the logistics department at UnityPoint Health.
Not true! In fact, for most students, the tasks that may seem mundane to your regular staff — working in Microsoft Excel, conducting inventory checks, cleaning GIS data, packing surgical kits, assisting in children’s physical therapy sessions, delivering critical supplies between departments, attending meetings — carry more gravitas than the tasks associated with the typical retail and hospitality jobs for high schoolers.  Better yet, these responsibilities build students’ soft skills and teach basic workplace technical skills.
Students will rise to the challenge and can add huge value to short-term, task-driven projects by freeing up your existing staff to address other needs. It’s a win-win-win — the students earn skills and confidence, your staff gets extra hands, and your company cost-effectively builds capacity.

Myth 4 – “Our Company will have to create a specific code of conduct for student interns.”

Nope! Similar to the myth above, students will respond to responsibility and treating them just like any other ‘adult’ employee is a huge confidence booster.
The fact that you’re trusting them to get the job done is not lost on them. Chances are that your company may be the first to make this type of investment in them.  These early experiences are fundamental for preparing students for future work life and they will not soon forget the impact you and your company have on them.
This is also an incredible opportunity to instill your organization’s values and ethics into your potential future employee to ensure that they are set up for success.  You never know where you’ll find your next employee!
A Greater Peoria Works intern gets under the hood at Beachler's Auto.
A Greater Peoria Works intern gets under the hood at Beachler’s Auto.

Join Greater Peoria Works and create opportunities!

So what are you waiting for!?  Let’s work together to create more high school internships and build our region’s workforce. If you or your company is interested in learning more on how you can create an opportunity, give Brent Baker, GP Pathways Co-Director, a call at 309-696-4733 or email at to learn more!


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