Today, I read an article about how the typical "summer job" for teens is fading away. With a U.S. economy that is trickling along, more young adults are taking entry-level positions and seasonal jobs that teens would normally fill.
The article states that fewer than 3 in 10 Americans teenagers hold seasonal jobs. This is really hard for me to believe. Perhaps that is because I've spent most of my summers in Alaska, which despite the economic downturn, has summer economy that provides as many jobs as a kid can take on, and still has to bring in folks from out of state to fill positions.
I started working at the age of 16 at a local museum and gift shop. My summers were filled with selling Alaska trinkets and souvenirs, and giving detailed historical tours about my community of Sitka. This job undoubtedly increased my public speaking abilities, self-confidence, and not to mention gave me some cash to do my own back to school shopping in August. We all know the benefits of having a job for a young person: increased problem-solving skills and ability to work in a group, learning the value of money, respect for others, time management... After my job at the museum, I went on to work at several other summer jobs up until I was 23: Naturalist/tour guide on a glass-bottom boat, server at a fishing lodge, housekeeper at another fishing lodge, ATV tour shore representative, and sales associate at an outerwear store/gift shop. The money I earned during these summer jobs allowed me to have more freedom to open up a debit card account, buy the CDs I wanted, go to the movies, and later on, help pay college tuition.
As a teen, I recall hearing of cousins around my age who lived in other states and had trouble finding summer jobs. Also, European friends my age said it was virtually impossible to find summer employment growing up. My Alaskan friends and I balked at this. What the heck did one do in the summer if you didn't work?? An economist for the Federal Reserve point out that jobless teens are not utilizing their time to go to summer school or do other college-preparatory work. His analysis of government data found that jobless teens across all income groups were often spending the extra time watching TV, playing video games and sleeping rather than on educational activities. I would recommend that teens who are unable to find work to seek volunteer opportunities and community involvement to have something on their resumes to highlight when they apply for college. While jobs may be hard to get in this economy for the young and under-skilled, I know that employers and institutions of higher education look highly upon self-motivation and commitment to service in a young person.
I'm glad I was able to grow up in a place where summer employment was the norm, and even an expected part of one's yearly routine. I think that living in Southeast Alaska also fosters entrepreneurship in its residents, urging people to tak advantage of the tourism and natural resources potential around them.
I'm sad to see the decline of the "summer job," and I urge any young person in the "lower 48" states to come on up to Alaska if they're wondering what hard seasonal work is like. I can guarantee you can find at least three jobs to suit you, although the price of a gallon of milk, or a week's worth of rent in this state may be the harder part to swallow...