Lifeguarding at the pool, mowing lawns, working at a fast food restaurant, retail shop or as a cashier at the local grocery store—these are just a few of typical summer job for teenagers. For adults who are old enough, it’s difficult to imagine not being able to find a summer job back then. But according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the current summer unemployment rate for Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 hovers around 26 percent. This percentage is significantly higher than both five and 10 years ago. One reason for the scarcity of summer jobs for teens is the changing face of the job market; many adults are taking whatever kind of employment they can get.
As a result of the stiff competition, anything that teenagers can do to set themselves apart is beneficial. Internships—paid and unpaid—can offer invaluable experience that can help develop skills that employers seek out. Most kids don’t know anything about the professional world and have no clue about what it takes to work in such an environment. Through summer internships, young people can get invaluable training in communication, time management, appropriate office behavior and other professional skills.
Many states and cities have youth employment programs in place that provide summer work/internship experience for youth, matching teens up with entry level jobs at a variety of establishments, including government agencies, summer camps, local businesses, museums, retail shops, hospitals, and sports enterprises, with the goal of familiarizing youth with the working world, fostering academic improvement and social growth.
Many statewide and local arts organizations and creative businesses realize that an investment in youth development is an investment in the future of the community. Several offer out-of-school community arts education programs include internships that give teens a chance to stretch their minds and imaginations in a setting that is less obviously structured and conducive to more informal mentoring relationships with adults. Community arts organizations and businesses that actively engage this age group can create environments with social interaction built in to the learning experience—and opportunities for developing leadership, teamwork, communication and other life skills.
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