The Williamson County chamber of commerce — Williamson Inc. — is starting a new internship program for high school students in the county.
Bank of America is also offering local high school students the opportunity to build workforce and leadership skills through a paid internship with a local nonprofit .
The Williamson Inc. program, called GROWilliamson, will place about 20 students with local companies later this year so they can get a sense of what it’s like to work with the participating companies.
Those program aims to make it more attractive for teens to join the labor force in Williamson County, where workforce participation among teens is lower than many areas in Tennessee.
Williamson Inc. already organizes some career exposure days, such as the STEAM and manufacturing days last fall, where groups of students visit local companies for a few hours.
Williamson Inc. Director of Talent Nick Biniker, who is managing the new program, said the chamber wanted to create something that would allow students to go deeper.
“Students aren’t seeing what it’s really like. They’re getting glimpse, which is great. They’re getting exposure, which is a first step for sure,” he said. “But there’s no formal internship program or job shadowing in Williamson County … We felt like that was a gap we could fill.”
Williamson Inc. wants the interns to have valuable experiences that allow them to learn about the industry they’re working in, i.e., no fetching coffee or filing papers.
“We will be filtering pretty closely when businesses send us their job description to make sure they’ve been thoughtful, and making sure it’s a relevant experience for the student,” Biniker said.
The plan is to have students work 20 hours a week during the month of June. They’ll be with employers Monday through Thursday, and will have a class at the Williamson Inc. offices on Fridays.
The class, featuring guest speakers from the business community, will focus on soft skills, such as how to behave in the workplace, how to track their hours and interview skills.
Interns will make $10 per hour during the program. Williamson Inc. has committed to paying one third of that cost, and participating employers will pick up the rest.
The chamber already has a group of four companies ready to hire interns, but it’s hoping to find about 10 more companies to join the program. Employers can sign up for the program on the chamber’s website.
Students will need to apply for the internships. The chamber hopes to open applications in February. Biniker said he expects to receive far more applications than there are openings, which means the process will likely be competitive.
Bank of America is offering a similar program. Nashville area high school juniors and seniors will be placed with a local nonprofit for an eight-week internship, working 35 hours per week.
Last summer interns, including Battle Ground Academy senior Mitchell Morrison, worked with a program at Oasis Center that helps first-generation immigrants and refugees integrate into society.
As a part of the internship, students will also attend a weeklong Student Leaders Summit in Washington D.C. over the summer. The students also get some personal finance education through the bank. Applications for the Bank of America internship are already open, and will close at the end of January.
Visit Franklin is one of the organizations that will be accepting interns through the Williamson Inc. program this summer. The group has already worked with interns from Columbia State, some of whom were later hired as employees.
Visit Franklin community engagement manager Heather Doleshel said the interns from the Williamson Inc. program will be in the marketing department, updating the group’s website, working on the newsletter and helping with social media.
She said interns will also spend some time working in other departments to broaden the experience.
“We have always been very supportive of having student interns,” Doleshel said. “We can learn from them and they can learn from us.”