Summer is around the corner, temperatures are heating up, and teens are getting ready for that quintessential rite of passage: the summer job. It used to be that teens could expect to find a summer job as quickly as pop-up summer showers appear in Florida.
But times have changed. Now, the teen unemployment rate is at 24 percent, and as the country still struggles with a slow economic recovery, the ease with which teens used to be able to find seasonal work has all but evaporated.
Junior Achievement took the teen pulse around their goals for summer employment. Our 2013 Teens and Summer Jobs survey reveals a teen population confident in its ability to find summer work. The national survey of 14-18 year-olds shows that nearly two-thirds (63 percent) plan to get a job this summer, and of those, 92 percent are "very" or "somewhat" confident they will find seasonal work. Yet only 38 percent of teens surveyed said they had a summer job in the past.
When asked how they planned to find summer jobs, teens' top three methods of finding work were networking through their parents' connections (47 percent), using online job postings (33 percent), and looking in store windows for "now hiring" signs (32 percent).
Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of those teens who plan to work this summer said they anticipate earning between $7.25 (the current Federal minimum wage) and $10 per hour. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, among employed teenagers paid by the hour, more than one-in-five (21 percent) earned the minimum wage or less in 2012, compared with about 3 percent of workers age 25 and over.
Particularly given the challenges they could face in finding summer work, we applaud teens for seeking summer employment to increase work experience and earn extra spending money. However, we hope teens who do not find jobs this summer due to a still-challenging job market do not become too discouraged. There are still opportunities to earn valuable experience through volunteering or by creating their own opportunities by starting a business, such as IT services or a house sitting service.
Seasonal work can provide young people with important work-readiness and interpersonal skills that will help them to succeed in their careers. Overwhelmingly, teens who planned to get summer jobs said that they viewed gaining real-life work experience (79 percent) as the top benefit of summer employment other than salary. Yet only 5 percent of respondents planning to work this summer said they planned to seek an internship in a field of interest to them.
Junior Achievement and other nonprofit organizations have programs in place now at schools across the country to help students get ready for success in the workforce. A summer job not only provides fun memories and a paycheck, but skills that pay career readiness dividends later.