The Value of Summer Jobs

School is out for the summer, and one of the best ways for young people to keep busy is to secure jobs. Working in a restaurant, bagging groceries, and cutting lawns can provide kids with a fantastic learning experience. Holding a job will teach them how to handle themselves in the workplace, and the thrill of getting a paycheck is usually reason enough for most young people to pursue job opportunities.

Unfortunately, a recent national report indicates summer jobs will be scarce this year for teenagers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports more than seven in 10 U.S. teens will be jobless this summer. One of the major reasons is that older workers, immigrants and college graduates are also competing for the same jobs.

So if your child cannot find a paid summer job, don’t underestimate the value of volunteering. Although some larger companies don’t routinely use volunteers, there are numerous businesses and organizations that do offer “kid-friendly” volunteer opportunities. Young people can serve as counselors-in-training at camps and day care centers. Hospitals, non-profit organizations, senior citizen homes, parks and recreation departments, and local cable companies often use volunteers. Not only will children be able to learn valuable skills through volunteerism, but it is also gives them an advantage over other jobseekers when the organization or business does have job openings. Additionally, many kids don’t get a chance to volunteer during the school year because of their busy school and activity schedules. Summer is a good time to gain job and social skills through volunteerism.

Older children and teenagers also can create their own businesses by offering neighborhood services such as dog-sitting, yard cleanup, plant watering, babysitting, and performing tasks as “mothers’ helpers.”  Whomever the child works for, he or she should ask that person to write a letter of reference at the end of the summer. The letter will prove very valuable when the child later applies for a job or college.

Parents who have extra work to be done around the house this summer can negotiate a set price with their child to do the job. The entire experience should be handled as if the child is an employee — set work hours, responsibilities and an evaluation of the completed project. To this day, my adult son still talks about how he paid for his very first computer with money he earned from stripping the stairs in our home to prepare them for refinishing. Not only did he get his coveted computer, but he learned skills that come in handy now that he has a home and family of his own.