Summer jobs for teens wane even as research finds big benefits

christiansm_logoBy Laurent Belsie | The Christian Science Monitor

After her parents were deported to Haiti when she was eight, Sherley Muscade lived with a family friend in the United States and, eventually, her aunt. She shifted schools often. She babysat during the summers. And then last year, she had her best summer ever: a job at the  Boston Planning and Development Agency.

“I was absolutely meant to be there,” says Ms. Muscade, now a high school graduate. “I learned so much. At meetings, I was treated as a coworker rather than a lowly intern.”

She loved it so much she went back to work at the redevelopment agency this summer. And she’s been accepted to enter Georgetown University this fall.

Muscade’s experience is increasingly rare, however. At a time when most teens are busy burnishing their college résumés with unpaid internships, summer courses, and volunteer gigs, the onetime rite of passage – the summer job – has lost much of its luster. Two generations ago, a majority of teens worked in the summer; now it’s only about 3 in 10.

But for teens who need them, summer jobs are more important than ever even as they’ve become all too scarce. Recent research finds the work opportunities reduce crime and offer disadvantaged youths the experience and job connections that can help them in later years.

“There’s nothing quite like being paid to work for someone; I call it the habits of paid work,” says Neil Sullivan, executive director of the Boston Private Industry Council, which coordinates the city’s summer jobs program for disadvantaged youths. The decline in summer jobs, he says, represents “the collapse of America’s workforce training system for teenagers…. It’s like an earthquake in the labor market, and teens fell through and nobody noticed.”

The effect of a generation of twenty-somethings entering the workforce with little or no previous work experience is not yet known. Will they quickly pick up those basic job habits – being on time, dressing appropriately, treating customers with courtesy – that their parents learned early on waiting tables and manning shop counters?

“I worry most about the noncollege-bound kids,” says Alicia Sasser Modestino, a Northeastern University professor who has studied Boston’s summer employment program. “They’re growing up in neighborhoods where there’s a lack of job opportunities.”

Read the full article here.

MyNEUFind Faculty & StaffFind A-ZEmergency InformationSearch

360 Huntington Ave., Boston, Massachusetts 02115 • 617.373.2000 • TTY 617.373.3768
© 2013 Northeastern University