Study: Teen employment aids future career success

Study: Teen employment beneficial

It's nothing new in the American workplace: Teenagers who combine their busy school and social schedules with a part-time job, either during the summer or year-round. American teenagers taking our tickets at amusement parks, scooping ice cream, working cash registers, busing tables, taking care of youngsters, and bagging groceries are part of our social fabric, and it's one that we've naturally assumed is good for teenagers. Now a new study presents academic proof for something we already knew: Teenagers who work while still in high school are generally more successful in their careers.

There are many reasons for getting a job before one can vote or enjoy a beer, including learning new skills, gaining experience and building a network. It's never too early to start networking or building a resume and skill set.

Why happy meals are better than happy children

This large-scale study, which focused on the large metropolitan area of Philadelphia, might very well be representative of the rest of the country. According to the study, which was conducted by Drexel University, formal work experience during the teenage years translates into a 20 to 25 percent salary increase later in life. This is not an entirely surprising fact, as teenagers who hold down employment learn valuable skills that could come in handy a decade or two later. These skills could include punctuality, reliability, accountability, and that must-have of all professionals: teamwork.

By "formal work," the study refers to positions with companies, retail outlets, fast food joints and small businesses that have formal rules and policies, as opposed to more informal positions such as picking the neighbor's kids up from school. Paul Harrington, the study's lead author and an economist at Drexel University, sees a lot of value in teen work. He thinks it is essential for young workers to understand how organizations work, and the way to do this is by working at a business.

The bad news: Decreasing unemployment for teenagers

Studies don't paint a portrait of exclusively good news for teenagers. The current challenging economic climate has meant that youngsters have to compete for positions with more experienced professionals. According to the study, in the year 2000 44 percent of teens between the ages of 16 and 19 in the Philadelphia area held jobs. In 2013, that number was down to 25 percent.

In another unrelated report, Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies recognizes the fact that employment opportunities for teenagers have significantly decreased during the last few years, negatively affecting teenagers' future opportunities and development. The report states that teen unemployment in 2008 was at 34.8 percent, which clocks in as the lowest employment rate ever recorded for teenagers since World War II. In 2007, there were 1 million unemployed teenagers in the US. This is discouraging news for teens, but if the government has any say in it, things might improve.

A March 2008 report prepared for Congress addresses this issue and proposes some potential solutions. They included the reinstatement of the popular Summer Youth Employment Program, which could create at least 1 million summer jobs for teenagers, particularly those in low-income groups.

In addition, there are several strategies that can be implemented at the state, local and county level, such as using funds from the U.S. Department of Labor to work with private companies to create both year-round and summer employment for teens.State and local Workforce Investment Boards should actively develop strategies that help increase teenage employment. Finally, the nation's employers should also be given a tax incentive to hire teenage workers, according to the report.

But it is not all bad news, either. Many leading companies recognize the fact that supporting teens in their first jobs is a valuable investment in the nation's future. Last year, Bank of America made 1,000 positions available to teens. In addition, the bank's Student Leaders program provides paid internships that provide hands-on training at local non-profits.

Girls are from Mars, boys are from Venus

Not surprisingly, there are gender differences when it comes to job attitudes, and teenagers are no different. A recent study by Junior Achievement (JA) and ING found significant differences between boys and girls when it comes down to what motivates them. Forty percent of girls in the study said that they do not need additional motivation to complete a task, while only 22 percent of boys feel that way. In comparison, boys place a lot of importance on perks and promotions, while girls tend to focus more on other factors, such as mentoring and networking. While boys are still outpacing girls when it comes to focusing on careers in math and science, girls are smartly choosing careers that will continue to be in demand, such as medicine and teaching.


3 Reasons Why Teens Should Get Jobs Early On, Tony Morrison, September 29, 2011, http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2011/09/29/3-reasons-why-teens-should-get-jobs-early-on/

Signaling Success: Boosting Teen Employment Prospects, Commonwealth Corporation, April 2013, http://www.drexel.edu/provost/clmp/docs/Signaling%20Success-Boosting%20Teen%20Employment%20Prospects%20Apr%202013.pdf

Summer Jobs Set The Framework For Future Success, Kerry Sullivan, July 19, 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kerry-sullivan/youth-summer-jobs_b_1687922.html

Teen Careers Poll: Boys Motivated by Higher Salary While More Girls Are Self-Motivated, http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/teen-careers-poll-boys-motivated-by-higher-salary-while-more-girls-are-self-motivated-86821557.html

Teen Workers More Likely to Be Successful Adults According to Recent Study, Tess Taylor, May 13, 2013, http://www.payscale.com/career-news/2013/05/teen-workers-more-likely-to-be-successful-adults-according-to-recent-study

The Collapse of the National Teen Job Market and the Case for An Immediate Summer and Year Round
Youth Jobs Creation Program, Andrew Sum, March 2008, http://www.northeastern.edu/clms/wp-content/uploads/The_Case_for_Job_Creation_Program_for_the_Nations_Teens.pdf

Tie on that apron, kids: Drexel University study says teens who have jobs are more likely to succeed, Julia Furian, May 6, 2013, http://www.metro.us/boston/lifestyle/career/2013/05/06/tie-on-that-apron-kids-drexel-university-study-teens-who-have-jobs-are-more-likely-to-succeed/