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Work Placement Starts in High School

Platform to provide accessible internship placement for high school students by linking local companies/organizations with schools.

Photo of Cindy Toh
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Jessie is an inquisitive 9th grader who enjoys learning. As both her parents are busy working through the summer holidays, she was left alone at home for most of the summer holiday playing video games and chatting with friends on social media. She hopes there was something more fun she could do and learn during summer, and even better if she could get some pocket money too.

Sam is a 10th grader who have been working part time at the local store for some extra cash. With no formal contractual, Sam's boss have underpaid him on occasions and was made to work in hazardous conditions without insurance coverage. Sam is afraid to tell his parents, as they might stop him from working nor speak to his boss for fear of being fired. 

Samantha is a high school teacher who believes her students will benefit from work placements, however, she does not know who and how to approach organizations to secure work placements for the large no. of students in her school. 

Richard is a hiring manager for a chain supermarket store. He finds it tough to attract youth/young adults to join the team as they often cite it as boring or "uncool" to work in a supermarket. He wonders how he can get youths interested in a retail career. In addition, the stores are currently facing labour shortage country wide and he is seeking temporary/short term help.

An online platform that list approved internship placements by vinicity to high schools. Recruiters can post up internship placements and details of job description. Teachers and students can sign up for accounts to access the list of internship placements available, they will be able to apply and review their application status. 

To get youth to start thinking and evaluating their career options early. 

By getting youth started early with school holiday work placements, it helps:
- Youths: Gain life skills that can't be learned from books, pocket money, experiences to help in their decision making on their future careers, instill a level of self-dependency
= Employers: Fill up entry roles in industries facing short supply of workers (e.g. hospitality, F&B, healthcare and retail), identify potential recruits for future roles upon graduation

How it will work

- Identify low entry jobs suitable for the various age group, 14 - 16 and 16 - 18, etc (stock taking, waitress, packing grocery bags, stocking supermarket shelves, registration aids at hospital, ticketing, mending game booths, etc)
- Roles should be easy to grasp for the respective age group; training can be done either as mass briefing in schools or batching induction

Creating a work placement database specific to each school, depending on school/parents preference, students can be rotated for work placements ranging from once to three times in a year during school holidays with duration ranging from a week to a month. 

Alternatively, if it could be worked into school schedules. It could extend to once a week half day commitment for one school term.

Why do you think it might succeed? 
Employers get to fill acute shortage in workers especially so for hospitality and tourism sector during holiday breaks. 

Real life working experiences extends classroom learning which can benefit both teachers and students. Youth gets to earn pocket money which is great for empowerment and learning the value of money.

Questions for community
- I am expecting some parents to be uncomfortable with such arrangements (i'm not a parent so its a little hard to imagine), can you think of some of the key concerns and how we can counter them
- The school/teachers might see this as "extra work" that they have to embark, how can we potentially incentize or make the arrangements easier?
- What are some areas that might be barriers for employers to come onboard? E.g. insurance for work related accidents, etc

Who does this idea benefit, who are the main players and what's in it for them?

It will benefit the economy, employers and youths. Economy If all high school students participate in work placements, we will accumulate a substantial amount of manhours which will be beneficial for the economy. In addition, it helps to train and get our young ready for the workforce. Employers Some of the key industries are facing a shortage of workers (retail, healthcare, F&B, hospitality and tourism). High school students can help to fill entry level roles. At the same time, it helps to build awareness for the brand/organization with the youth as they will likely be a future consumer or employee of their organization. Youth Work placements helps to provide real life experience, instill discipline and sense of dependency/self-reliance. In addition, they will be able to earn pocket money and a great way to spend their school holidays. Others who might benefit from this too: Schools/Teachers Work placements will help to extend classroom learning. Parents Have the confidence/assurance that their kids are engaged in legal/approved work for learning and growth. Help to lessen their burden to plan and pay for school holiday programs or activities.

How is your idea specifically increasing access to employment opportunities and pathways for young people?

By experimenting/trying, we learn if the job is something we like or dislike. In addition, this will help youths to discover they have the ability to create their own wealth/ earn their own money in a safe environment. These are critical in helping them explore their interest and learn the fact they can generate wealth. With early exposure, youth graduate not just with a paper but with work experience which will help in their job search and employer confidence. Employers are encouraged to design career pathways which youths can learn about during their course of work placement. E.g. Hotel - 14 year youth starts placement as a bell boy, 15 years old at waitress role, 16 years old at reservations department role, etc. It serve as a "job rotation" in the industry which helps the youth to have a better understanding of the industry and generate interest for hospitality.

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to receive from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

- Legal input if there are any areas which should be investigated more deeply - Recruiters/Employers perspective: How can this temp/rotational job posting be easily implemented at organizations? - Parents perspective - Youth perspective - Educators/teachers/School perspective

The idea emerged from:

  • An individual

How do you envision your idea being implemented?

  • Keen to be involved in prototyping but need partners at some stage


Join the conversation:

Photo of Sergio Marrero

I love this idea. Also related to using the industries as focal points, I think it depends on the region. Working with youth in New York, many of them were focused on securing retail positions as that was the need, there we many entry level retail positions. I imagine it would change by area depending on where you start. If you started this, where would you envision starting it.

Photo of Dave Zinsman

Love it! I think there's a lot of potential in real-world learning for kids of all ages. What were you thinking as far as possible products? For instance, an internship search toolkit for youth and their parents; a website to connect youth with opportunities; etc.?

Let me know--would love to help you prototype!

Photo of Meena Kadri

Agree – lots of potential here, Cindy and we're excited to learn more about what form it might take as Dave suggests. To help you develop your idea further, check out these handy tips: In parallel, it could be interesting to interview a few potential employers, parents and young people to explore their needs further so that you can focus your proposal on creating value based on these real world needs. Looking forward to seeing your idea grow...

Photo of Cindy Toh

Was looking at the comments from the bottom up. Luisa mentioned NYC Department of Education have a high school internship program in place, where they would fund some of paid internship. Based on my initial search, i noticed internship placements and information are dispersed, and each organization have their own forms and application requirement. Definitely think there is opportunity to stitch things together in a more user-friendly manner for the users (employers, schools, students and parents).

This also lead me to a side thought about opportunities and distribution. I believe there are a group of parents/students who are always actively searching for internship opportunities for self-learning and growth.

What about the remaining students who are not as aware or whose parents may not be as keen in having their kid be placed in internship. How do we reach out to them, how can internship be made "cool" or perhaps a universal credit system like Coursera where students earn credits and could be actively offered opportunities.

What do you think?

Thanks for the link! i will dig further into the tools to help expand the idea with the feedback gathered.

Photo of Dave Zinsman

Hey Cindy,

I think you're definitely on the right track with your query: "what about the remaining students who are not as aware or whose parents may not be as keen in having their kid be placed in internship?" That may be something that you want to focus your product on.

One good way to start thinking about focusing and solidifying the idea is to reframe the challenge to fit your specific focus. The overall challenge is “how might we build better employment opportunities and pathways for young people around the world?” This is a broad topic meant to get people thinking about many areas of opportunity all over the world. So the next step for you is figuring out a specific area of opportunity, and possibly in a specific place.

So if you break down a design challenge into its component parts, you can easily reframe your specific design challenge: action, utility, users, location.

How might we:

Specific Action: Build; Increase; Equip, etc.
Specific Utility: Access to clean water; micro funding; computer skills
Specific Users: Underprivileged youth; firemen; SMEs
Specific Location: Los Angeles, CA; Austria; BRIC

One way you could go is:

Specific Action: Increase
Specific Utility: Access to internships
Specific Users: Underprivileged youth
Specific Location: San Francisco Bay Area

---> “How might we increase access to internships available to underprivileged youth in San Francisco?”

I feel like once you’ve framed your specific design challenge, the community will be able to better help you solidify it further, to start thinking about specific personas, and how you might solve their pain points--giving you product design options. Hope this helps, and looking forward to seeing more!

Photo of Meena Kadri

Gold framing technique, Dave!

Photo of Dave Zinsman

Thanks, Meena! Looking forward to seeing where it goes, Cindy!

Photo of Aditya Sudhakar

Great idea Cindy, am a big fan of any platforms that get students 'doing'. The confidence one gains is invaluable.

Photo of Cindy Toh

Thanks Aditya!

Photo of Rehmah Kasule

Hi Cindy, This is a great idea to start internship placements right in secondary school. Are companies in your country willing to take on many interns? This is something that we are struggling with in Uganda.

Photo of Luisa Fernanda

This is very interesting. It might be a great opportunity to see how this idea could be developed in parallel in Uganda and where Cindy is located.

Very interesting idea. In fact the NYC department of Education offers a program to place high school students in internships.

It might be interesting to focus on the lens you would like to take with this idea:
Would you like to focus on employers and how they can offer internships to high school students? Learn what students are interested in pursuing?

Do you have access to either employers or high school students to conduct some interviews to get insight for this idea?

Photo of Wambui Kabue

Great idea Cindy. I completely agree that youth employment should begin before people get to university maybe even to the primary school level. I think in my country(Kenya) your idea would force us to re-evaluate our education system at the very least as well as empower and give children direction from an early age. Thanks for sharing. Would love to help anyway I can.

Photo of Cindy Toh

I'm from Singapore but have recently relocated to the States. Back in Singapore, both SME and large enterprise are quite receptive to interns. However, this largely extends to students above the age of 17 who are in higher technical education or junior colleges.

Interestingly, after i posted the suggestion, I came across a news article on a National Youth Internship Programme in Singapore. It is targeted at teens above the age of 17 and offering VWO internship placements which will include a monthly stipend of up to SGD480. ( It is targeting

Perhaps this might be a good starting point to explore? Though I think more thoughts is required in differentiating between voluntary work vs paid internship at a VWO.

Thanks for sharing! i did a search and found quite a few high school internship offers in NYC, most of which are internship placements with non-profit or VWO.

I would think the focus should be on employers. My thoughts is to look at 1-2 industry leaders that can offer a wide range of roles and the ability to create a career track. I think healthcare and hospitality industry are key starting points, these are industries with increasing demand for manpower to meet the aging population and travel boom respectively.

Due to my recent relocation, I have yet to gain access to local employers and students in my area. For a start, i will take the lead you shared on NYC department of education internship initiatives to find out the current reviews of the program and the measures currently in place to alleviate concerns employers may have in taking in high school interns.

Thanks, will reach out to draw your creativity input when we get there. ;)