We as parents are concerned about schooling in large part because we want our children to succeed in the work world. Many of us value education because it will help our kids become capable at providing for themselves. With this idea in mind, it’s invaluable to ask ourselves how much time our children should be spending in school versus how many hours they should spend on internships, work and volunteer experience.
School is invaluable for developing skills, but what use are students’ talents if they don’t know how to apply them? Internships, work and volunteer experience can help make what they learn in school relevant to the ‘real’ world. Each child will be different, but in this post we’ll try and dig up some valuable perspectives that can help you come to a decision about the merits of internships, work and volunteer experience.
Work experience helps develop entrepreneurial skills
The man who was one of the masterminds of 1-800-GOT-JUNK says schools often don’t do enough to teach children business skills. In a TEDx talk that has garnered more than 1.3 million views, Cameron Herold says children who often show potential as entrepreneurs are repressed rather than encouraged to use their gifts. He says one of the biggest problems in schools is teaching children to become employees, rather than teaching them how to come up with viable businesses.
And he says even business schools are guilty of this! Cameron says there’s nothing wrong with encouraging children to become employees, but when children receive little entrepreneurship training, many kids who show promise as business owners are having their potential wasted.
The solution? Work and volunteer experience can help alleviate that problem. He says it’s important for parents to encourage their children to start thinking entrepreneurially at a young age. His parents encouraged him to find ways to create jobs for himself rather than ask for them. His father taught him the basics of supply and demand when he was seven.
Cameron credits this type of parental mentoring for his success — he did poorly in school and was diagnosed as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. But he says entrepreneurship helped him channel his creativity — which was not appreciated in a traditional school environment — into something positive.
If your children can start volunteering or interning
Work experience helps students land jobs in the future
And even if you’re not grooming your children to become one of the next Forbes 100 CEOs, work experience increases their chances of finding jobs, according to a National Post report.
Furthermore, the Government of Canada also agrees that working while still in school is a good idea for a slew of reasons, including developing professional networks, getting your foot in the door at a company, or gaining valuable experience from mentorship.
Volunteering helps build communities
Many schools are encouraging or requiring children to clock in some out-of-school volunteer time. According the New York Times, high school students who volunteered in high school are more likely to become active in civic or volunteer work later in their lives.
Regardless of whether students choose to volunteer or are forced to do so by schools, the effects seem to be positive, the article says. But that’s usually dependent on the job and whether the program allows students to learn about their work in the greater context of a larger issue. For example, students working in a soup kitchen may become more civic minded if they’re given the opportunity to serve the homeless and discuss their experiences afterwards. This may not be the case if their volunteer work in the shelter does not give them the chance to interact with people.
What we know about internships, work and volunteer experience
Generally speaking, it’s a good thing! But obviously, as with everything, balance is crucial. Education shouldn’t be neglected, seeing that schooling is related to higher earning and lower unemployment.
Working also teaches children how to overcome obstacles, which helps develop resilience.
But keep in mind, not all internships, jobs or volunteer experiences are equal. The benefits your child will get out of internships, work and volunteerism depend on whether those tasks encourage entrepreneurship, creative thought, problem solving and community consciousness.
Of course we’re not belittling menial labour, because those jobs have their benefits too.
In a nutshell, encourage your kids to get internships, work and volunteer experience. Try to find work that encourages the attributes we discussed above. But try to avoid overwhelming your children to the point their grades suffer.