On Summer Hiring

In the Northeast, as in the Midwest, we’ve been granted an unseasonably early spring. In fact, the weather has been more like summer.

While nearly everyone basks in the glory of these golden days, one group of the population seems especially enthusiastic when the weather turns warm. What is it about teenagers and summer?

Sure, the weather has something to do with it. Freedom from the confines of the classroom also plays a part. But summer is more than a season when you’re a teenager; it’s a magical time of year that holds incredible promise.

Summer is synonymous with exploration. And, at least for past generations, that exploration has included employment.

Getting a summer job has long been a rite of passage, as well as a way to fulfill goals and dreams. How many generations of teens have relied on summer jobs to save for a car or a college education, while earning money for the movies?

In the past, teens at work were an ordinary part of the American summer landscape. Unfortunately, that was the past. Today, far fewer teenagers have access to employment opportunities. The reason, quite simply, is that people don’t hire them.

Renee Ward, founder and principal of Teens4Hire, a website that seeks to match teenagers and employers, has been an advocate for young people for years. But even Ward has seen a shift away from hiring younger teenagers.

When asked about employers hiring high school students, in connection with an article for the employer publication HRWire, Ward told me: “Sixteen to 18 year-olds? Forget that. It’s not happening, outside the fast food industry. They’re skewing 18 and above.”

The situation is troubling, for several reasons. Teens gain valuable employment and life experience from working summer and after-school jobs. An entry-level job teaches a young person so much, including the importance of teamwork and how to interact with people from different age groups and backgrounds. (Ironically, many of the employers that complain about how this generation lacks workplace etiquette and people skills are the same employers that won’t hire teens.)

Employing teens also helps keep them occupied. In the inner cities especially idleness can lead to lifestyle choices that take a toll on the teens themselves, their families, and the communities in which they live.

What can you, as an SMW reader, do? If you’re an employer, consider hiring a teenager this summer. If you know employers that intend to add to staff this summer, encourage them to hire teens.

When you give a teen a job, even a seemingly menial one, you contribute to shaping that young person’s destiny. And, because teenagers are the future workforce, you’re helping to ensure that the employees of tomorrow will be better equipped to handle all their jobs require.

Paula Santonocito

Career Editor, SingleMindedWomen.com