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May 15, 2013

STANCZYKIEWICZ: Summer jobs and teens

Summer job opportunities could be increasing for teenagers, but much more than money is at stake for teens hoping to work this summer.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1.4 million teens between the ages of 16-19 landed summer jobs last year, a 46 percent increase from the depths of the recession in 2010. John Challenger, who leads a national workforce consulting firm, expects the upward trend to continue in the summer of 2013 – perhaps matching the pre-recession total of 1.7 million summer jobs for teenagers.

Challenger cites a rising number of “help wanted” signs in sectors such as retail, restaurants, sporting goods, leisure and hospitality, shopping malls, amusement parks, day camps, and landscaping.

Ball State economist Mike Hicks agreed, “In fact, this could be a big year for hiring lifeguards and jobs similar to that.” Hicks, however, cautioned that the increase in traditional part-time summer jobs will not be matched by an abundance of full-time summer employment, and the full-time summer jobs that do exist likely will be filled by adults who currently are unemployed or underemployed.

Teenagers who are employed this summer undoubtedly will look forward to each paycheck, but working a summer job also offers life-changing benefits beyond money. Holding a job teaches teenagers important life and work skills including punctuality, how to dress appropriately, how to take direction from a supervisor, how to work well with colleagues, and how to provide quality customer service.

A research summary conducted by the Annie E. Casey Foundation concluded, “A continuum of work experiences from the teen years and on ... including summer and part-time jobs ... builds skills, knowledge and confidence. These encompass not just workplace and financial skills but the broader ‘soft skills’ of working in teams, taking initiative, focusing on and solving problems and learning how to contribute.”

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