It’s been nearly two years since Abbott launched its Abbott Blueprint, aimed at broadening STEM horizons for high school students through a first-of-its-kind internship initiative playbook for other companies to follow. No stranger to the STEM internship game, Abbott first started an internship program for high school students in 2012 with an “each one, reach one” mentality, striving to do its part in harnessing the next generation of STEM leaders.
Abbott’s Executive Vice President of Human Resources, Mary Moreland recounts how the health care company started this program to encourage young women to seek jobs in the STEM fields, because only a quarter of the STEM workforce today is female.
Abbott specifically targets students from diverse schools near areas where the company operates. They recruit students based on ability and are proud to report more than two-thirds of the participants are young women and more than half are minorities. Also, a marker of success and sustainability, Abbott says ninety-five percent of its high school interns go on to study STEM in college, and more than 75% of eligible students go on to their college internship program. According to Moreland, in the last few years, Abbott has hired its first former high school interns as full-time engineers at the company.
The renewed emphasis on this program stems from the recent global COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters, and continued lack of access to essential health care. These are major challenges resulting in the immediate and long-term need for a STEM ready workforce. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics backs this up, predicting the U.S. will need another nearly 800,000 STEM workers by the year 2029.
It’s with this statistic in mind that Abbott is renewing its efforts to help other organizations start similar high school STEM internships programs. Abbott is relaunching the second edition
of its internship blueprint, including new information about how to help students earn college credit for their experiences. Abbott believes focusing on high school students is the best approach since high school internships enable employers to reach a larger range of students and expose them to fields they might otherwise dismiss.
Moreland says exposing students to STEM earlier in their education pathways enables students to grow their interest and confidence in STEM. Reaching high school students also will help increase the quantity and quality of companies’ college internship pipelines. A high school internship allows a company’s reach to expand beyond the network of its typical college recruiting. Additionally, a company can ensure its high school interns are equipped with the skills needed to succeed at the organization, decreasing training time and increasing productivity for the interns who return when they are in college.
Moreland hopes other companies will jump at the chance to implement programs using the Abbott Blueprint as this work is more important than ever. Because the potential in all students needs to be realized to fill the needs of the STEM workforce of the future.