Ready to Work

Businesses and nonprofits can partner to create internships and other practical experiences that prepare students to succeed in the fast-changing work world.

KPMG Work Ready

Businesses are operating in a time of unprecedented change, with a variety of forces influencing the role of human capital—everything from changing workforce and client expectations to greater regulatory focus to emerging technologies and new service delivery models. As a result, one of the greatest challenges facing corporations worldwide is workforce readiness—defined as having new hires prepared to enter the workforce with the requisite knowledge, skills, and attributes they’ll need to succeed in their respective occupations.

To address these challenges, businesses must anticipate the needs of not only their clients, but also their professionals. They must plan how to attract, motivate, grow, and retain qualified and diverse talent.

Companies are investing in the future by engaging with nonprofit organizations that develop the next generation of leaders and ensure the future workforce has the skills and knowledge to be successful in the 21st century. The best way to do this is by providing students with lifelong learning opportunities—and by exposing them to the workplace early on.

For much the same reason, business schools should seek to expose students to the latest business trends, technologies, and solutions. Not only will such exposure expand student learning, it also will prepare graduates to enter the workforce. Experiential learning becomes a win-win formula for both businesses and business schools.

Connecting with Next Gen Leaders

NAF is a national network of education, business, and community leaders who work together to ensure high school students are ready to attend college and embark on their careers. NAF’s educational design includes STEM-infused, industry-specific curricula and work-based learning experiences, such as internships.

For years, NAF had an informal arrangement with the financial services sector team at KPMG, a leading professional services firm providing business solutions and audit, tax, and advisory services to companies. In 2011, KPMG formalized its engagement with NAF through a grant provided by the KPMG Foundation. In 2017, KPMG began hosting annual NAF Future Ready Labs (FRLs), which are designed to close the internship gap. The labs provide a strategic structure to scale paid internship experiences, which makes it easy for companies to build a qualified and diverse talent pipeline.

FRLs help support NAF’s goal of reaching 100 percent internships for high school students in its programs and creating access to opportunities for all future leaders—a perfect example of experiential learning. In all of the 2018 NAF FRLs, 76 percent of the interns were nonwhite and 62 percent were female.

KPMG has hosted 65 interns in three FRLs since 2017, and it plans to host 65 interns in three labs in summer 2019 alone. Participating interns work in KPMG’s offices, as well as at client and other third-party locations, throughout the course of a four- to five-week work experience. Interns work in project teams to solve real-world problems in business ethics, corporate social responsibility, cybersecurity, education, contingent workforce culture, and more. They also are introduced to innovative techniques such as design thinking, which challenges them to think outside of the box to come up with a variety of solutions.

Perhaps most important to the interns’ personal and professional development is the opportunity they have to network with and be mentored by KPMG employees. Interns receive practical firsthand advice on topics such as how to return to their academic careers; they also receive tips on how to approach the college application process. Ninety-five percent of KPMG mentors thought they made a difference through the program, and at the end of KPMG’s 2018 fiscal year, 92 percent of the mentors from KPMG’s three completed labs were still with the firm. Both students and mentors feel that they have benefited from participating in a lab.

Profound Results

During the 2018–2019 school year, more than 100,000 students attended 617 NAF academies across 35 states, as well as Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In 2018, NAF academies reported 99 percent of seniors graduated, and 87 percent of graduates planned to go to college.

In a 2018 study performed by NAF, 97 percent of interns in all NAF FRLs (not just those powered by KPMG) said that as a result of the experience, they feel better prepared for pursuing a career. They reported learning key soft skills in areas such as business operations, problem solving, verbal communication, time management, and interpersonal interactions.

The positive effects are clear for both the communities and for companies like KPMG, which forges relationships with many nonprofit organizations to drive the learning that will prepare students for future success. The key is identifying programs that provide practical hands-on, action-based learning.

It is no accident that corporate citizenship has transformed from being a “nice to do” to a “need to do.” Businesses have a responsibility to invest in the communities where they live and work because the children of today are the business leaders of tomorrow.


Rob ArningRob Arning is Chairman of the KPMG Foundation and Head of Citizenship at KPMG.

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