The March 7th article "Why Teens Aren't Finding Jobs, and Why Employers Are Paying the Price" explains how and why teens are undergoing their own "Great Depression". The ramifications of US teens missing important early career lessons is expected to cause long-term labor challenges. Here are some highlights from that article:
• Teen unemployment at historic highs 2004-2007 - At one point, 70% of newspaper carriers in the U.S. were teens. But that number dropped to 18% in 2004. According to data gathered for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 37% of teens nationwide worked in the summer of 2006 -- nearly 11% fewer than were working in 1989, the peak of a nation-wide economic boom.
• Lack of work ethic or lack of opportunity? - "We often ask, 'What's wrong with this generation? They don't have any work ethic?' but a deeper analysis shows they haven't had the same employment opportunities their parents and older siblings once had," says Neil Sullivan, executive director of the Boston Private Industry Council, a business-led intermediary organization that seeks to strengthen Boston's workforce. As a result, employers are finding that entry-level employees are lacking in what Sullivan calls "the habits of paid work."
• Unemployment rivaling the Depression - "When you ask teens if they want to work, a large number of kids say they simply can't find a job," says a professor of labor economics. For the summer of 2006, according to the labor bureau statistics, teens had an unemployment rate of 16.5% -- four times higher than that of adults during the same period. "If adult employment fell by the same rate teen employment has in the last 10 years, that would be greatest job loss in American history since the Depression."
• Teens missing important lessons - "Working as a team, completing tasks and taking responsibility. Kids learn these skills through employment," says Ivan Charner, director of the Academy of Educational Development/National Institute for Work and Learning, a Washington D.C.-based non-profit concerned with workplace development. "Can you learn those skills by playing a sport or volunteering at church? Yes, but if you are a volunteer, you don't necessarily have to show up. A lot of kids don't or can't play sports. Employment provides an important opportunity for kids to learn from adults other than their teachers or parents."
• Catch 22 for teens - You can't land a job when you don't have experience, and you can't get experience unless you have had a job. Experts agree. "Employment is what we call 'path dependent, the more you work now, the more you will work later."
• If not teens then who? - "Employers are hiring immigrants instead of kids, especially in the last six years," he notes. Hiring one immigrant often leads to hiring more, because hiring usually happens through social networks. Another group replacing teens are workers 55 and older seeking to supplement their incomes. "If you walk into a mall or a grocery store, you'll see large numbers of older people working at jobs teens used to have," says Sum.
• Long-term effects on US labor and competition - "How can the United States continue to compete in a global economy if the entering workforce is made up of high school graduates who lack the skills they need, and of college graduates who are mostly 'adequate' rather than 'excellent'?" write the presidents of the study's four collaboratingorganizations.
Why Teens Aren't Finding Jobs, and Why Employers Are Paying the Price. [Knowledge @ Wharton]
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