career guidance

The Employer’s Guide to Job Shadowing

Across the nation, schools and companies are realizing that more collaboration is needed. For the first time in US history there are more available jobs than available workers. Thus, there is a pressing need for companies to build their talent pipelines, especially in critical science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.

One way to connect teenage students with local employers is through job shadows. Whether you have never heard of job shadowing, or are looking to get a job shadow program started in your district, here are some of the most common questions and answers we get about the process:

Employer’s Quick & Easy Guide to Job Shadowing:

Q. What is a job shadow program?
A. A job shadow program is a program within any company or organization that lets students shadow workers for a few hours. Unlike internships, which usually last months or a year, job shadow programs are typically less than one day. Students are compensated with school credit and the ability to meet professionals – no money exchanges hands on either side. Also unlike an internship, a job shadow is strictly educational in nature; they often only observe but can do hands-on tasks if you are open to that.

Q. What does a job shadow program entail?
A. A job shadow program usually consists of having a teenage student observing an employee while they work. The employee can explain each task to the student, and maybe have her/him try for themselves. The overarching purpose of a job shadow is to give students a sense of what a career is really like. A test drive so to speak!

Q. Why should my company offer job shadowing?
A. A company has lots of reasons to offer job shadowing! Not only are you helping introduce today’s youth to the workforce, you might also find one or two standout students to keep in touch with, mentor, and perhaps even hire when they graduate. Job shadowing is also a necessary part of completing high school, so you’ll be helping local students complete a very important requirement!

Q. Will having a job shadow program disrupt the workday?
A. Not at all! Your workers should be alerted that a student will be at your company for the day, and a handful of friendly employees should be chosen to be shadowed by the student. The flow of the workday shouldn’t change too much. Again, the whole point is for a student to experience a real ‘day in the life’. Even employees who aren’t tasked with being shadowed shouldn’t be afraid to jump in and offer a few nuggets of wisdom and info!

Q. Should I provide the student with any resources?
A. While it isn’t necessary to give the student any resources (they should show up with their own notebook, pencil and lunch), it isn’t a bad idea to have a simple agreement in place. While not necessary, an agreement form can be completed by both the company representative, student, and supervising educator/guidance counselor prior to a job shadow visit to keep everyone on the same page.

Q. Are there any legalities to job shadowing I should know about?
A. Part of this depends on the field that you work in. Manual labor jobs (i.e. construction, landscaping, factory work, etc.) usually require a release of liability form, while office settings typically don’t require such measures. For the most part job shadows are treated as ‘field experiences’ – like a field trip – and students are typically covered by school insurance. In some sensitive fields such as healthcare or national defense, job shadows may not be physically possible, or they may be limited to certain days or areas.

Q. How do I start a job shadow program in my organization?
A. Clearly explain the benefits to your supervisor if needed (educating youths, improves company brand, makes it easier to find new employees), how easy they are to carry out (legal paperwork optional in most cases), and how short they last (typically a single day). Once your company is on board, the next step is to reach out to the local school district. High School Guidance Department Directors are typically the best place to start. Their information can usually be found on the school’s staff page. You can also create a free listing in our Directory to share your job shadow opportunity!

Q. Are there any job shadow programs out there?
A. At the moment, no widely-used or government-sponsored job shadow placement program exists just yet. Most schools go it on their own; local school districts might have a program in place for its students, but just for that district.

Q. How will students know that my company is interested in hosting job shadows? A. Career In STEM has developed the STEM Job Shadow Finder – the only online tool currently on the market to help students find and connect with local STEM companies. The Job Shadow Finder is an interactive, searchable database custom created for school districts by Career In STEM. We do all the hard work of reaching out to companies and curating responses to provide all the information an interested student (or their parent/educator) will need to find and complete a job shadow experience. The Job Shadow Finder also allows students and educators to list job shadow locations and post ‘inside views’ through interactive community groups, enabling students across the nation to share and learn from the job shadow experiences of their peers. >>Create a free company profile today!

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