In a recent column for the Journal-World, former Kansas University Chancellor Gene Budig made the case that public schools in America should strongly consider lengthening their school year. Nationwide, only about a fourth of teens will be able to find summer jobs, he noted, and their time might be better spent in the classroom.
A longer school year probably would pay off educationally, but it would be too bad for youngsters to lose the experience of holding a summer job.
Whether it is working 9 to 5 in an office or mowing lawns in the neighborhood, holding a job teaches some valuable lessons. You have to show up on time ready to take direction and complete a job to the boss’s satisfaction. Many employers say the biggest challenge to hiring good workers for full-time permanent jobs these days is finding people who will show up, with a good attitude, eager to learn and work. People who display those attributes can be taught the specific skills required in the job, but it’s hard to teach work ethic.
It may take some effort to find a job, but according to local employment services, the outlook for teens is better this year than last. While the national jobless rate lingers at about 9 percent, as of April, Kansas had an unemployment rate of 6.3 percent, which was down from 6.8 percent in March 2011 and 7.1 percent in April 2010.
The Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department still is hiring for seasonal jobs like lifeguards and referees. Local restaurants and other service businesses often hire teens. Mowing, gardening, baby-sitting are other options. The jobs may not be glamorous but they’re a start.
For teens who can’t find a paying job, a regular volunteer job is another great choice. A number of local service agencies depend on regular volunteers. The local Roger Hill Volunteer Center noted last week that Trinity In-Home Care, LINK and CLO’s Midnight Farms all are seeking youth volunteers this summer. There’s no pay involved, but volunteer jobs provide a lot of satisfaction and teach skills that might help youngsters get paying jobs in the future.
It’s all about the experience. What students learn in the classroom is important, but holding a part-time or summer job teaches a whole different set of skills. It’s an experience every teenager should have.