Cross-posted from Forbes.
By Amy Rosen,
President and CEO, NFTE
President and CEO, NFTE
Just as the weather is warming this year, the sun is setting on summer jobs.
That’s what the numbers say.
Overall, summer youth employment has declined over the last decade. Among white youth, the rate has dipped from 70% to 54%. Only 39% and 35% of Hispanic and Black young people respectively had summer jobs two summers ago.
While there may be tendency to dismiss the trend as insignificant, for those of us who focus on youth employment and employability trends, the drop in summer jobs is problematic development. According to The Center for Immigration Studies, which executed the 2011 study, even after controlling for other factors, such as family background, those who work when they are young are more likely to be employed later in life. Those who work as youths also make more money and are employed in higher status occupations.
This research also shows that holding a job during their formative years instills the habits and values that are helpful in finding or retaining gainful employment later in life. This may include showing up on time, following a supervisor’s directions, completing tasks, dealing courteously with customers, and working hard.
In other words, having a summer job is a pretty strong indicator of future job success.
When you process that and include that youth unemployment is already at its highest level since World War II – only about half of young people ages 16 to 24 held jobs in 2011 – the future for young people in the workforce can look dark.
Unfortunately the collective job prospects for lower income young people are even bleaker.
According to that same study, the few summer jobs available are taken, increasingly, by white, male teens whose parents earn between $100,000 and $149,000 annually. About 46% of teens in that demographic reported working in the summer. For black males teens with family incomes below $20,000 the summer job employment rate was just 9%.
The young people who are most likely to benefit from the income and future job skills offered by summer jobs are the least likely to have them.
In a word, that’s bad.
The good news is that there are things we can do. And some serious people and institutions see the opportunity and are investing to reverse the summer jobs trends. In just one example, the Citi Foundation, through their Pathways to Progress initiative, has committed $50 million to improve the career readiness of low-income urban youth over the next three years, including working with Mayors of the country’s largest cities to create meaningful summer job opportunities for disadvantaged young people.
As a recipient of the Citi Foundation’s investment, NFTE’s Make Your Job program is greatly expanding our summer reach – teaching entrepreneurship and business skills in 10 communities this summer. We have also just launched a new, game-like entrepreneurship website (www.MakeYourJob.org) for young people who can’t access the in-person training.
With these efforts and the help of Mayors, volunteers and teachers across the country, we’re jumping in to address the lack of summer jobs by teaching young people to make their job by launching their own small businesses this summer. And for a lifetime.
Summer jobs matter. This summer, make it your job to support summer jobs.
Not just because they provide spending or saving money but because of the eyes and doors they open for young people.
If you’re a parent, encourage your children to work and learn. If you’re a business owner, open a summer job to a young person. If you have knowledge or experience to share, volunteer or mentor a young person. The energy, attention and investment in teaching young people – in a classroom or in a summer job – is essential.