Youth Jobs Much More Than Paid Distractions Before a Diploma


If you think job opportunities are dim for Americans with a high school diploma and a degree- try making it without one- or both in the new American workforce.

When the Center for Labor Market Studies (CLMS) at Northeastern University analyzed 2012 unemployment data, they found that Black youths who left high school sans a diploma had an employment rate of six percent–leaving the rest to scour for jobs that focus less on a degree and more on an acquired skill-set.

“We estimate that only six percent of Black male high school dropouts ages 16 to 17 from low income families were working that year which means that 94-95 percent were jobless,” said director of the CLMS Andrew Sum.

And while education has long been linked to economic advancement, economists say job training for teens, and the many benefits received in working a job or an internship, go a long way in predicting employment trends later in life, especially in a job market eager to continue a trend of weeding out it’s youngest contenders.

“Youth are at a disadvantage when they come into a weak economy because they may have some of the skills, but they don’t have the experience,” said 36-year-old International Labour Organization (ILO) economist Steven Kapsos, who’s spent ten years with the United Nations (UN) agency. “Getting more experience in high school is very important.”

Kapsos, who is based in Geneva, Switzerland and closely studies world economic trends, said work experience gained from jobs in high school is of top value to companies looking to employ younger workers.

He also stated that even if teens can’t get a paid job, they should increase their earning potential by taking advantage of career services and completing multiple internships along with their high school courses.

According to information released in July by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 24 percent of teenagers were unemployed last month, and information from the ILO shows that wages in the country have remained stagnant since 2009.

Kapsos said part of the reason teen and young adult unemployment is so high above the national average of 7.6 percent lies in the fact that older adults are not only doing jobs traditionally left to youth, but they are also staying in their positions longer. Thus, there’s less room in the workplace for Americans with freshly-inked diplomas and degrees.

Ernest Dorsey, assistant director of the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development, Youth Services, has battled some of those issues here in Charm City.

“We have found it difficult in the past couple of years to get young people into entry level positions because you have older, more experienced workers that have been laid off settling for the entry level positions that, in the past, we were able to get our young workers into,” Dorsey told the AFRO, of the program that found 5,000 jobs for youth this summer.

According to Dorsey, who oversees the city’s summer job program YouthWorks, the earlier a teen gets into the workforce, the more likely they are to be employed later in life.

“It helps them determine what kind of career path they want to pursue, or not pursue,” he said. “They can determine what they never ever want to do and shift to another direction based on the experience they had- not what somebody told them.”

“They learn what’s required in the market place in terms of being on time, following directions, and other soft skills that employers say they are looking for in employees.”

Lillian J. Huff, vice president of Washington, D.C.’s Financial Literacy Organization for Women and Girls (FLOW), said work experience for youth in their formative early teen years gives youngsters an understanding of how money works in the real world- and how to stay gainfully employed. The organization began in 2007, and focuses on creating healthy finances for ladies of all ages.

“Our whole society has changed,” Huff said. “All we hear about is tight monetary budgets and furloughs within our federal and local governments.”

Huff encouraged parents to enlighten their children on the different financial situations facing the family- instead of just saying no to requests for money or expensive ventures.

“A lot of parents don’t share that information,” she said. “It’s a learning process that’s happening around them. They can see it on the television and hear it on the radio. Parents need to direct them to those sources so they can see it directly.”

“When teens have that kind of understanding they really know how to budget and learn what sacrifice is all about- they learn how to make better selections and better choices.”

Youth Jobs Much More Than Paid Distractions Before a Diploma

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