Teenage Wasteland

Posted on 04/30/2012 in misc

Teenage unemployment is currently running at 25%. I can't think of a single teenager that I know that has a traditional part-time job. My 18 year old son is a certified fencing referee. Not exactly the traditional teenager job.

I started working before I was 10. My father would get me odd jobs doing yard work and pet sitting for his friends. Later on, I would simply go door to door with a lawn mower in the summer. I got a "real job" at 16 and worked all through college too. Pretty much everybody I knew in high school had a part time job. You turned 16 and you found a job. It was standard operating procedure. Most of the employees at my local pizza joint appear to be my age. Granted, there are several factors at work here, none of them under the control of a teenager.

  • The economy. Duh! Adults are taking the jobs that used to go to teenagers.
  • The general decline of retail. Between automated checkout lines and Amazon, the local retail establishments just don't support as many jobs as they used to.
  • Competition for college. Especially among upper-middle class kids, doing something that looks more impressive on a college application that "McDonalds" takes priority. Given that a full ride to a private school is worth $200,000 that isn't necessarily a bad strategy.

How does this play out when the kids are 21 or 22 though? Not having the 5-6 years of work experience that we had upon college graduation could make the next generation a slower ramp into the full-time work world, as they have to learn the lessons we learned at 17. OTOH, maybe they'll be more likely to go an entrepreneurial route, with I think would be a net benefit to the country. With health care reform,recent college grads will be able to stay on their parents insurance until they are 26. They can write a check to their parents each month for their part of the insurance premium, and have 4-5 years to try to make it on their own without needing the health care security blanket that may come with a corporate job.

Teenagers today need to be thinking about the long game years before we ever worried about it. They should be lining up internships and volunteer opportunities so that the graduate not only with a degree, but with 3-5 years of applicable work experience, and not just 3-5 years of work experience. It kind of sucks that kids have to worry about this stuff. Most 18 years old don't really know what they want to be when they grow up. That adds a certain level of difficulty to lining up the right part time and summer jobs.

This might be a rare instance when I'm happy I'm not 18 again.

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