By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Northborough/Southborough – When faced with the lack of high school internship opportunities, Algonquin Regional High School (ARHS) students Joe Zhang, Christopher Wang and Oscar Hong decided to create The Internship Initiative (TII), a platform that matches students and businesses.
As rising juniors, over the summer of 2018, Zhang and Hong had a difficult time finding an internship. They found that if students didn’t have a connection, like a family member already working at a company, chances of an internship were limited. In addition, most internships are geared to college students, leaving high school students lacking the opportunity for exposure to fields that they may want to pursue in the future.
“Internships are important,” said Zhang. “Everyone should have equal access to them and have the same opportunities. High school students should be able to test work environments and make connections before choosing their plan of study in college.”
“Internships help students to be more competitive,” said Tucker. “It’s necessary to build skills, network, gain work experience and make connections earlier.”
The TII business plan and model were created in early 2019 as it became clear a way to match students with internships was needed.
Students Kevin Tucker, Bharathan Sundar and David Gillingham joined the co-founders as the TII platform was developed. Each member of the team balances the skills and expertise for the business.
The platform compares to the electronic college application system, known as the Common App, which collects a range of student data and helps students to align interests, requirements and characteristics to their college choices on one application.
For TII, students need to complete the free online application to create their database profile, including information such as GPA, transcripts, resume, industries of interest, availability and recommendations. Their profile will be shared with businesses needing someone with that profile.
Businesses in any industry can partner with TII by completing the online survey describing the business and intern criteria required. There is a small fee to businesses, but at the end of the process, a pool of applicants who fit the business criteria and who are ready to work is generated.
The first 10 businesses who partner with TII can try the platform for free.
“We are fine tuning the process and spreading the word,” said Zhang. “We are using ARHS as a test market, but looking to expand to central Massachusetts. We want to keep opportunities close to limit transportation barriers for the student.”
TII’s website contains a blog written by Sundar, highlighting business achievements and information. It also provides links to resources and free courses on basic job skills, interviewing techniques and resume writing.
Although Sundar is a rising high school senior, and some of the team members are college-bound next year, they all hope to continue working with one another.
“We are in it for the long haul,” said Hong. “We care about the issue.”
Additional information on TII is available at www.interninit.com, Twitter @in_initiative, and Instagram @theinternshipinitiative. Donations may be made at www.gofundme.com/f/help-fund-the-internship-initiative.