Put Those Teens to Work!
by Sandra L. Ray
As summer approaches, parents are wondering how they can help their teenagers get a job. Adults who were displaced in a tough economy may already take most of the available jobs. It is becoming harder and harder for teens to get those part-time jobs that help buy school clothes for the next year or gain valuable experience before going off to college.
Some of the best resources for getting jobs are right under a parent's nose. These include network contacts and workforce training programs. In addition, some nonprofit organizations offer internships on a limited basis. It is best to apply early for these programs.
First jobs are less about making money and more about learning work ethic and job responsibility skills. When asked, many employers aren't looking for highly trained staff. They're looking for someone with good worth ethic, which means someone who can report for work as scheduled, dress appropriately, and work as a team member. Still, the money made from that first summer job can teach teens responsibility about money handling, as well as pay some of the out-of-pocket expenses that parents normally provide.
Family and friends can be a helpful avenue in a job search. More jobs are found through networking and word-of-mouth than in the newspaper classifieds. That college roommate of dad's can prove useful when son or daughter goes job-hunting. Even if it's sorting mail, the work experience can be invaluable. Plus, using contacts effectively teaches teens the value of networking so that they can depend less on parents and begin to build their own job network. Be careful not to misuse these contacts. One bad experience can scare away a contact from making a second job referral.
Some non-profit organizations offer internships during the summer months. While many of these are non-paying, a few of them do offer a modest stipend. Even non-paying positions offer valuable skills and experience. One example of a stipend program is AmeriCorps. Billed as a "domestic Peace Corps," AmeriCorps gives young people a living allowance while they perform community service. The purpose of the program is to instill an ethic of service while working toward community problem solving. While most programs offer year-round positions, there are many summer-only openings as well. During their term of service, youth gain valuable training on topics such as citizenship, conflict resolution, and cultural diversity. Eligible youth must be 17 years or older and be an U.S. Citizen, national, or lawful permanent resident.
At the end of their term of service, the volunteer earns college tuition credit for use at a public college or university. The credit is good for seven years and can be used for books, tuition, and relevant fees. The financial aid office facilitates use of the college credit. For available AmeriCorps programs, more information is found on the website at www.americorps.org.
Finally, there are workforce-training programs for youth who fall into particular categories. Under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998, youth training programs usually administered through the state's Workforce Commission are no longer limited to summer time. Youth between the ages of 14 and 21 can apply and work year-round in qualified programs. Yes, there are qualifications for the program. There are specific family income guidelines and other special needs categories. For the youth that qualifies, it may mean the difference between a good work training program and not working at all. For more information about where to apply, contact the local workforce commission in your area or go online to the United States Department of Labor website, www.dol.gov.
Parents can help by modeling good work ethics for their children, encouraging them to learn more in their position, and listening to their workplace struggles. If there is a workplace conflict, teens learn best by working through a supervisor to remedy the situation. This part is where some parents go too far by trying to intervene on a youth's behalf to his employer. As an employer, one thing I do not understand is the mother or father who feels it necessary to try to solve their teenage child's problem by calling me or visiting the office. The parents are not teaching their child how to solve problems in the workplace, and instead may be hindering their child's future employment goals.
Seeking work for youth is getting more challenging. There are programs and alternatives in place. Nothing may beat the experience gained in a summer youth program or internship. Still there are others who can find work by utilizing effective work contacts. These skills can be listed on a resume and can assist youth in getting better college scholarships, finding more challenging work in the future, or even advancing in a current position. Some employers will keep a good youth working at the end of a summer session if they prove reliable. One thing is certain: a good work experience at a young age will assist a young person in learning problem solving skills to take to the next employment level.
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