This summer, KPMG launched the inaugural KPMG U.S. Empower High School Experience, a three-week paid internship focused on introducing high school students to accounting careers.
According to Jennifer Flynn Dear, KPMG managing director of community impact and alumni strategies, this initiative will give interns access to a curriculum based on personal development, relationship management, college and career readiness, as well as industry knowledge. She added that 178 juniors and seniors will participate across 11 cities throughout the country, from Los Angeles to New York, with the support of 500 firm professionals who will serve as mentors, content developers, facilitators and volunteers.
“We are very excited about the program and are really confident that our students are going to leave with an understanding of what a career in our industry could be like,” said Dear. “They will understand what steps they need to take to achieve this career and they’ll come out of it with strong relationships with KPMG people, who can remain their mentors and coach them throughout the coming years.”
Dear explained that interns first go through an exercise to not only identify their strengths but discover areas where they could develop more skills. With mentors accompanying them throughout the process, students then work on setting goals within and beyond the program, to learn accountability with their objectives and why that’s important. Additionally, Dear said they’ll benefit from networking opportunities through office fairs, social media and other means.
The internship teaches how to set up a LinkedIn account and use it to connect with the right people, along with data analytics as it relates to career growth and building effective relationships. The program also offers skill-building activities and several discussion panels, with accounting professionals explaining how they can move forward with their careers, what a certain role entails, what it takes to get there, and what corporate culture looks like at KPMG.
“The Empower program is great as it has allowed me to access opportunities that would have otherwise not been available,” said Milad Rasoli, a San Francisco intern with the program. “Oftentimes in business, an individual’s network is crucial to unlock opportunities. Therefore, for people such as myself who have no family or extended family that work in the industry, the KPMG Empower program has been extremely meaningful.”
This program is a continuation of Accelerate 2025, KPMG’s commitment to attract, retain and advance underrepresented talent, and Dear said that diversity and inclusion were at the center of the internship’s design. Created under the leadership of the firm’s community impact team, the program is a direct response to the declining number of CPA exam candidates, as well as the low number of Black and Latinx people in public accounting.
As a result, the firm collaborated with several nonprofits such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and the All Stars Project to identify which students would benefit from such an internship, what experiences would be valuable to them, and reflect KPMG’s “commitment to their communities.” Together with those organizations, learning and development groups across the firm, along with other accounting professionals, the community impact team drafted the final curriculum for students and Empower.
“The goal is not for everyone in the program to go into the profession, but we wanted to make sure that young people who are at this critical age where they start making decisions about where they’re going to go after high school and what they’re going to study, that they understand what it means,” said Dear. “We’re really hopeful that by giving these young students an intense program for three weeks, they can meet individuals who maybe came from similar backgrounds or experiences and see other pathways to our career.”
One feature of the internship is that it doesn’t require students to have a specific GPA. Dear said the firm sought to include students who might have been overlooked by other programs, despite not lacking an interest in professional opportunities. In their search for students, the nonprofits were only required to look for students who would adapt well to a hybrid environment and who would be ready to commit to a certain amount of work.
For a program that promotes inclusion, Dear said it was important that no one was left behind.
“The KPMG Empower High School Internship program has provided an opportunity for me to gain hands-on experience in a professional setting,” said Aryan Choudhary, a Denver Empower intern. “It has greatly increased my interest and knowledge in the accounting profession and shown me a completely new career path which I am looking forward to further exploring.”