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By BILL STANCZYKIEWICZ
Indiana Youth Institute
While the nation’s job market is slowly warming up, the summer months might not be so hot for teen employment.
The last 12 months saw the country’s unemployment rate drop from 9 percent to 8.3 percent, while Indiana’s unemployment rate dropped to 8.7 percent.
The Indiana Business Research Center estimates the Hoosier unemployment rate could drop to 8 percent by year’s end, but “at this rate, it will be years before we return to prerecession (job) levels.” Which does not bode well for teenagers on the summer job hunt.
Summer job opportunities for teenagers have cratered. Along with the recession, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the decline in teen summer employment coincides with record teenage enrollment in summer school (46 percent).
The teen job market was much better a dozen years ago when businesses were growing and anxious to bring teens into the entry-level job market, said Linda Woloshansky, president and chief executive officer of the Center for Workforce Innovations, the regional workforce development agency based in Valparaiso. And teens lose more than income due to the lack of summer job opportunities.
“You don’t learn how to work until you start to work,” Woloshansky said. “We can teach work skills in a classroom, but you really don’t start to learn those skills until you actually work.”
Those skills include the so-called “soft skills” related to personal behavior and working well with others. A Center for Workforce Innovations survey found employers most need workers who have a positive attitude, follow directions, dress appropriately, manage time effectively, listen well and who are honest and dependable.
Without an opportunity to practice and develop these skills by working, Woloshansky said, “young people will have a harder time finding jobs later in life, which will not only harm their earning potential but their self-confidence as well.”
The Center for Workforce Innovation is launching a public-relations campaign encouraging employers to create jobs for teens this summer. “The job might only be 10 hours per week or might be a project that lasts only a week,” Woloshansky explained. “If that job can exist, we’re asking employers to create it and then take a chance by hiring a young person.”
In the meantime, teen-agers need to be proactive and persistent, looking for summer-job opportunities. Teens can inquire at businesses that do not have “help wanted” signs in the window, asking them to keep an application or resume on hand in case a job opens. Other options are babysitting, mowing lawns and walking dogs.
“Young people need to be creative,” Woloshansky advised. “Having a job will give you a sense of self-confidence, help you learn work skills and put some income in your pocket.
“Most importantly, find, take or create a job.”
Stanczykiewicz is president and chief executive officer of the Indiana Youth Institute. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.