Grow the Local Talent Pipeline: Become a STEP-UP Employer!

Q: What is STEP-UP?

A: STEP-UP is a summer internship program for Hamilton County Public School students in grades 10 – 12 sponsored by the Public Education Foundation. STEP-UP helps students build soft skills and their professional network desired by employers, while giving them a glimpse into the industry in which they have an interest. This opportunity can expose a student to a career path they might not have known existed otherwise. Each summer, Hamilton County businesses come together to give opportunities to over 170 students, and that number grows each year.

Q: What is the process and when do the internships take place?

A: To begin, businesses must submit a form indicating their willingness to host an intern and a description of the position(s). STEP-UP will send multiple students for the employer to interview, so the company can choose which students best match their company culture. STEP-UP will equip all businesses with Intern Supervisors and an orientation training to ensure students are prepared and equipped based on the company’s needs. The experience is customizable. Typically, students work 20-30 hours per week starting in May through July for 6-8 weeks. Click here to learn more.

Q: Are interns paid?

A: Employers are required to pay the students at least minimum wage. Students are responsible for their own transportation.

Q: What is the greatest need?

A: Each year, over 400 students sign up to be interns, but less than half get placed, because there aren’t enough positions. STEP-UP is looking for ALL interested businesses. Even if your business only has administrative tasks, students will be exposed to invaluable lessons on an 8-5 workday and how to behave in a professional setting. STEP-UP is especially looking for businesses located in Ooltewah and Soddy Daisy, as well as law firms, architecture and engineering firms. Last year, 20 high school students applied to intern with an engineering firm, but were not able to be placed, simply because there were no participating firms.

Q: How does STEP-UP benefit local businesses and companies?

A: Last year, over 300 students were trained on job-attainment essentials skills, such as interview skills and resume building. Employers currently partnered with STEP-UP have found that the high school students they interview have better interview skills than the college students who apply- thanks to the internship orientation training. As a business, you are not only giving back to local students, but you’re also helping to build the local talent pipeline. Participating businesses are fostering interest in their industries while molding the types of employees they would like to see in the workplace.

Q: What if my business can’t afford to pay an intern? Or what if we’d like to help, but there isn’t a place for an intern at my company?

A: Businesses can sponsor interns. Sponsored interns are able to both get paid for their summer work, but also get experience in a small local business. If you’re a small business that cannot afford to pay an intern, you should still apply to indicate your willingness. A sponsored intern may be placed with your company for the summer.


Sign up by April to be a participating business. Click here for more information on how to sign up or contact Jeff Rector at or 423-648-4452.



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