Young workers are a common sight around Mifflin County, especially during the summer months. In fact, nationwide, teens make up more than one-third of the American workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most young people in the workforce are working part-time, less than 30 hours a week, and many of the jobs obtained by youth are in the service and retail industries.
But is working always a good idea for teens who are already busy juggling school work, extracurricular activities and activities with friends and family?
Photos submitted by CHER HARPSTER
Rozlyn Gannon, 17, of Burnham, answers the phone at Zion Salon in Lewistown, where she worked through the summer through CareerLink’s Mifflin County Youth Program. The program helps students obtain work experience during the summer break from classes.
There are several very important positive reasons for youth to enter the workforce.
One of the primary benefits is that teens are able to learn the value of money and how to save and spend money responsibly. This independence from mom and dad's wallet can also lead to greater self-confidence.
Teens who work also have opportunities to improve soft skills - punctuality, teamwork, communication skills and personal accountability - that will be necessary to succeed in professional careers down the road.
A work experience can also be a learning experience that can help make future career decisions easier. Students who work will have a better understanding of themselves, their skills and their potential career interests.
Another positive outcome of working is the impact on a young person's future job search activities. A resume or college application down the road will be beefed up by the addition of an actual paying job and work references.
Last, but not least, school performance may be impacted in some cases. Studies show that students who work 10-15 hours per week during high school actually earn better grades than those who do not work at all.
Is working a good idea for all teens? There are several possible negative outcomes that can occur when a youth enters the workforce. Parents and teens should discuss both sides of this issue before deciding that a job is the right option.
One negative impact can be the additional stress that working can put on a student who already feels overwhelmed by schedules and school workloads. School performance can suffer if a student takes on too many hours at work and is not well-organized. Relationships with family and friends may also suffer due to a lack of time on the young person's part.
Working too many hours may also impact a young person's health, as they may eat and sleep poorly with the added time constraints.
Tips for Success
Teens who work have an impact on an entire family, as scheduling and transportation become issues for a household. There are several tips to follow if it is decided that having a teen in the workforce is a good idea:
Treat school as the teen's full time job, with the focus on maintaining good grades. Set expectations ahead of time about school performance.
Provide assistance with organizational skills. A family calendar or shared electronic calendars can help everyone stay on the same page.
Set a limit on hours that a student can work each week during the school year. It is suggested that students work no more than 15 hours during school. Perhaps a summer job is the best option?
Have regular conversations about the work being performed and specific work situations that occur. A young worker may be unaware of safety issues or other work circumstances that arise.
If grades fall below acceptable limits, work with the student to see if a cut in hours or schedule change is possible. If leaving the job becomes necessary, discuss the need to quit a position responsibly by giving an employer notice.
Look for positions that offer flexible scheduling options.
Helping Teens get Hired
Once the decision to obtain a part time job is made, there are several things that parents can do to assist the young person in locating suitable employment. Here are some tips for parents and teens:
Assess a teen's skills and interests to determine possible jobs. Discuss the types of jobs that may exist in your community that fit with a student's interests.
Help the student create a method for tracking applications. Students should record where and when they apply, how they apply and when they plan to follow up with that employer.
Talk to friends and family for possible leads. The teen should then follow up with those potential employers.
Research companies before applying to better prepare for the application and interview process.
Utilize online job search engines, such as www.jobgateway.org, to find out about openings and complete applications.
Practice interview skills such as handshakes, eye contact and the answers to common interview questions.
Get help from professionals.
Staff at PA CareerLink are available to review job search tools, assist with writing resumes and provide interview preparation. CareerLink, located in the MCIDC Plaza in Lewistown, is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. Call CareerLink at 248-4942 for more information.
During the school year, employment assistance is available to Mifflin County students through the services of Mike McMonigal, youth workforce specialist, who can be contacted Tuesdays and Thursdays at Mifflin County High School or Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the Mifflin County Academy of Science and Technology.
McMonigal can be reached by phone at 348-6180, by email at email@example.com or on Facebook at Mifflin County Youth Program.