Teens benefit from summer jobs

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, May 30, 2012

It’s 10 a.m. on a summer weekday. What is your teenager doing?

Chances are he’s still asleep. Or hanging by the pool. Or playing video games. Or, maybe if he’s really industrious, he’s looking for a job.

According to a recent report, adults say 14 is the ideal age for teens to start working. The report, released by What To Do With The Kids (www.whattodowiththekids.com), surveyed nearly 550 adults. It seems most parents say teens 14, 15, and 16 should be looking for work. Of course, they point those kids to part-time jobs such as yard work or babysitting. Fast-food companies, odd jobs, stocking shelves, and chores are among other “top jobs” offered by parents.

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The benefits are obvious: jobs teach teens responsibility and accountability. In the best scenarios, teens gain self-confidence, skills and real-world problem solving experience.

Sadly, though, teenage summer jobs seem to be a fading tradition.

In the 1950s through the 1990s, between 45 and 60 percent of teens held summer jobs, according to an article at slate.com By 2011, just one in four held a summer job.

Are they lazy? Spoiled? Otherwise occupied? Or just not able to find work?

Experts say it’s a combination factors: more teenagers are participating in educational or extracurricular programs (think travel ball) during the summer months, precluding them from having the time to work. For others, it’s harder to find that summer job. A higher minimum wage and increased competition for even part-time hourly work makes for a shrinking job market, even for babysitters and lawn-mowing teens.

That’s a shame because the value of a summer job reaches far beyond the paychecks. These jobs teach yougnsters the rewards of honest work. They’re a rite of passage that reinforces the American ideals of work and worth, and whole generations of teens likely will miss out on the lessons they could have learned by walking a dog, babysitting a neighbor’s daughter or simply scooping ice cream at a local store.