What About Teen Summer Jobs?

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I waited patiently for the young woman in the frozen yogurt store to figure out how to give me a receipt for my purchase. It’s unusual these days to see someone like her working during the summer months. All of the places teen workers used to be-- the yogurt shops, tee shirt stores and movie theatres -- are now likely to be manned by adults. Older employees, more often than not, piecing together two or three part time jobs.

It’s one of the reasons why it continues to be tough for teens to get summer jobs. 

Last summer 10,187 Boston teens got city-funded jobs and this year the goal has been the same. Teen summer jobs are paid for mostly from the city’s coffers. The Boston Private Industry, and 300 other companies partnering with the city, will pay wages for about 4 thousand jobs. That’s up from last year and a direct result of the mayor’s year round effort to increase private sector support.  Teen workers may not be in the frozen yogurt shop, but they will be employed at the New England Aquarium, Boston Centers for Youth and Families Summer Camps, Zumix and other community based organizations.

There is plenty of documented evidence that summer jobs for teens are a win/win –teaching teens work ethic and skills, underscoring what they learn in school. And keeping kids out of the mean streets where idleness often sparks violence.

In June Mayor Walsh announced funding for 200 more jobs and recently an additional 175. So it’s not from lack of effort –it seems-- that the estimated total jobs available this summer may still fall short of what some teen groups hoped for. Organizers from Youth Justice and Power Union staged two sit-ins at City Hall, at the beginning of the summer, to protest, arguing the real need was not 10 thousand jobs, but 14 thousand. When the mayor met with the organizers, he stressed that his priority was preventing violence. But in a statement reported by the Bay State Banner, the activist teens responded saying, “It’s funny to focus on violence and not the causes of violence.”

Experts say fewer working teens has an overall impact on income inequality, made worse by certain depressing realities. For example, young people from well off households are more likely to find work than those in lower income households. Ditto for white teens versus black teens.

School starts the day after Labor Day, there’s still 3 weeks --plenty of summer left for a teen to get some work experience. So this is a call to action: Potential local employers step up and offer a job to a teen.  Think of it in marketplace terms--- a definite value -add, and a short-term investment that offers a guaranteed return far beyond the summer.