Why any job might be better than no job for teens

Why any job might be better than no job for teens
Lois M. Collins, Deseret News

Jobs for teens used to be a summer staple, but increasingly, that kind of employment is hard to come by. It’s worth searching out, though, experts say, for the benefits kids reap — many of which have almost nothing to do with money.

In May, employment for older teens, ages 16-19, was down 14 percent compared to last year, according to James Limbach, writing for Consumer Affairs.

The numbers are based on analysis of new government data by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, which specializes in outplacement and analyzes employment-related data.

As CBS News recently reported, “The percentage of teens who work during the summer has dropped to 34 percent, a decline of 20 percentage points since 1995, a near-record low, according to research from J.P. Morgan Chase. Its survey of 15 summer youth programs in major American cities found that demand continues to exceed available job openings.”

In the article, Aimee Picchi wrote, “A summer job is more than a way for teens to earn extra money, noted Chauncy Lennon, who leads JPMorgan Chase’s workforce initiatives program. Working during school breaks can help teens gain important skills for their careers and help ease the way into full-time work once they’ve graduated.”

Kids really need to get a summer job, according to Quartz’s Jenny Anderson in an article whose title added “the less glamorous the better.”

“Not an internship at their uncle’s architecture firm, or a glorified filing job at their neighbor’s investment bank: jobs like scooping ice cream or flipping burgers, where no kid is too special, they actually earn money, and they get to see life through a radically different lens,” she wrote.

“The lessons are huge,” Richard Weissbourd, a lecturer and researcher at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, told her. “You see how hard people work, how rude and unthinking people can be to them.”

Many factors contribute to the change in employment opportunities for teens. Since the recession, many companies have cut the jobs teens used to fill or those jobs are now taken by older workers.

Teens have been “basically pushed out of the market,” John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, told Limbach. “They continue to have opportunities in the classic summer job settings, such as summer camps, neighborhood pools, amusement parks, etc. However, the number of these jobs is not really growing. We don’t see a dozen new amusement parks or summer camps start up every year. Meanwhile, restaurants and retail outlets are still hiring teens, but not as many as in the past, because they simply don’t need as many workers to meet seasonal demand.”

Many teens, though, are not looking for summer jobs as in the past, Challenger said, instead using summer to pursue schooling, volunteering, unpaid internships and other opportunities.

In an analysis for Brookings Institution, Martha Ross lists some of the discussion about how and why it matters that teens may have less in the way of job opportunity.

“Some argue that workplace experience provides key developmental opportunities that benefit all young people. Robert Halpern, for example, wryly notes that high school students are isolated from the adult world ‘at just the moment when (they) need to begin learning about participating in it,'” she wrote. “Others say that employment matters more for some young people than others. For example, disadvantaged youth — those not on track to earn a post-secondary credential and without strong family or community networks to help them find jobs — can particularly benefit from formal programs that connect them to the labor market.”

Email: lois@deseretnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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