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There's hope for a better teen job market, but now is the time to act
Teens on the hunt for summer jobs should see more opportunities this year, but with unemployment still high, competition will remain fierce, employment experts say.
And they advise wannabe teen workers to get going now on their job search.
Summer job gains nationally among 16-to-19-year-olds will likely surpass last year’s nearly 1.4 million level, predicts John Challenger, chief executive of Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That was the highest in five years and well above the 960,000 added in 2010, when the economy continued to struggle despite the Great Recession’s end.
The cause for optimism is tied to continuing gains in employment, particularly in retail, restaurants and other hospitality jobs — sectors where teens often land their first gig. Job openings in leisure and hospitality are up 22 percent year over year, according to the Labor Department’s latest job openings report. In retail trade, openings are up 8 percent.
Meanwhile a new survey by Snagajob finds employers planning on making summer hires will add an average of 30 seasonal workers, up 10 percent from last year.
Still, the unemployment rate among teens in March was a sky-high 24.2 percent, more than triple the overall unemployment rate of 7.6 percent.
Thomas Canty, a senior at Hyde Park Academy High School; and Kaina Castillo, a junior at Lane Tech College Prep High School; both 17, say it’s “extremely” difficult for teens to find summer jobs.
“Nine times out of 10, people hire someone with more experience versus someone who’s just starting out,” says Canty. “But we really want jobs. We need money too.”
Castillo says many of her fellow classmates have been looking for work in part to have discretionary spending money, “but honestly, it’s also having money by the time we graduate. I personally don’t want to graduate high school without having experienced any type of work.”
To help teens find work, the city of Chicago and Cook County have teamed up on the One Summer Chicago program. The program expects to provide 18,000 Chicagoans ages 16 to 24 with job training and work experience this summer. Included in the city/county program are financial literacy workshops, job skills development and coaching and onsite mentoring, notes Evelyn Diaz, Chicago Department of Family and Support Services commissioner.
Castillo and Canty are hoping to land paid summer apprenticeships to study dance and perform through the After School Matters program at Gallery 37. Both worked under the program last summer. After School Matters has roughly 7,000 paid apprenticeship and internship opportunities in more than 230 programs for Chicago teens as young as age 14.
The organization is partnering in the city/county program along with Boeing, JPMorgan Chase, the Chicago Urban League and other businesses and organizations. The Urban League also is working with corporate partners to place teens in jobs.
Challenger offers this advice to teens in search of work: Back away from your computer. While the Internet is a key tool, many opportunities aren’t accessible in the digital realm, he notes. Mom and pop stores planning to hire typically don’t advertise for jobs online. And neither do families seeking help with baby-sitting, lawn care and housecleaning — often overlooked opportunities tailored for the odd-job-seeking entrepreneur, he says.
Photo by Andrew A. Nelles