Friday, March 9, 2007

And We Wonder Why They Play Video Games All Day

Yet another cause of the infantilization of young people in our culture: the results of a recent survey show that while teens are willing to work part-time jobs, business owners are increasingly refusing to hire them. In fact, summer employment for teens is at an all-time low.

What a shame! Teens can learn so much from part-time work. I touched on this in the recently expanded version of my book, Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers:

Some homeschooled teens are fortunate to already be part of a family business. They have been learning and earning since they were fairly young. But even these teens can learn something new by obtaining a part-time job away from home. Working for a boss who’s not related to you is a lot different than working for your parents.

So for all homeschooled teens, from those who have never worked for pay to those who have been an integral part of the family business, a part-time job can provide money, some independence, and valuable life skills beyond what they have learned at home. When teens become employees, they learn skills they’ll need in future jobs, such as:

· getting along with customers
· following their employers’ instructions
· making good use of their time on the job

They’ll also gain specific skills, from working a computerized cash register to making hamburgers and fries. Then there are the intangible benefits, such as learning:

· humility (from having to wear an embarrassing uniform)
· persistence (from sticking with a dull chore like stocking shelves for three hours straight)
· patience (from dealing with demanding customers)
· promptness (from being required to "punch in" on time)

(Admittedly, parents are more likely to view these as benefits than teens.)

My first part-time job was at an ice cream shop. I worked there for six months; after the first few months, I earned a 10-cent raise, which brought me up to a whopping $1.40 an hour. I also earned a right forearm much larger than my left, because I scooped with my right hand. Subsequent jobs included cashier at a hardware store, window clerk at the community pool's refreshment stand, cashier at McDonald's.....I even spent a summer working in a perfume factory. The lessons I learned from these jobs were not those you learn from books, but from real life.

My two adult children began working part-time when they were teens. Now dd15 is almost 16, and we've discovered that the nearby chain grocery store has upped its minimum age for employees to 18. This is the same chain that hired my son at 15. Since dd15 is getting tired of babysitting, it looks like we will have to hire her to do work for our business. But as I stated above, there are certain lessons you can only learn by working for someone outside of your family.

If you're wondering why few businesses will hire teens anymore, the writer of the article blames "increased job competition from newer immigrants, workers aged 55 and over, college students and young college graduates unable to obtain jobs in their majors." Welcome to the service economy, where there are lots of minimum-wage jobs for everyone except those who need the experience the most: teens.

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