---- — As the national and state employment markets continue improving, more Indiana teenagers should be able to find a job this summer.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2.8 million teens found formal summer employment last year, an increase of 13 percent compared with 2012. The number of teens who wanted a summer job but were not able to find one declined by 17 percent. In addition, this positive trend does not include the teenagers who created their own jobs via baby-sitting, mowing lawns, pet sitting and other do-it-yourself employment.
According to Butler University economics professor Bill Rieber, this summer’s labor market is even stronger. “Unemployment in the U.S. is down to 6.7 percent, and in Indiana unemployment is down to 6.1 percent,” Rieber said. “Teenage employment should follow the overall trend in the nation and Indiana.”
Especially since the employment sectors that typically hire teens are expanding. For example, nearly half of the jobs held by teenagers last summer were in the categories of “leisure and hospitality” and “retail trade,” two of the fastest growing segments in this year’s economy.
This bright forecast is confirmed by a national survey of employers conducted by the online employment site, Snagajob.com. The survey found that 74 percent of employers anticipate hiring summer workers. Of those, only 14 percent expect fewer summer job openings compared with a year ago. The average summer wage in the Midwest is expected to be $10.43 per hour.
The survey revealed that 74 percent of employers hiring summer help expect to have all of their positions filled by the end of May. Instead of waiting until the end of the school year, teens need to look for work now.
The Snagajob survey also discovered who employers want to hire. The top attributes sought by the hiring manager: a positive attitude and a willingness to work.
Doris Boulrece, the owner/operator of a McDonald’s restaurant in Hammond, has a “help wanted” sign in the window. Boulrece is hiring at least 15 teenagers to work this summer. Character and work ethic are everything.
“We expect kids to bring their best attitude,” Boulrece said. “And they need an eagerness to want to do this. They need to want to do this for themselves.”
Teenagers also can create jobs for themselves such as mowing lawns, and Rieber described how those teens develop important business skills.
“You have to develop your own marketing plan,” the Butler professor explained. “How are you going to contact and attract your potential customers? You need equipment. You need to get the right mower. What type of investment will you make? What if it rains a particular week and you don’t cut? When do you cut the grass after that? You have to work with your customers.”
A summer job can prompt a teen to develop financial management skills related to wise spending, saving and charitable giving as well as planning for taxes. Summer employment also provides teenagers with a line on the earliest draft of their resumes as well as new relationships with supervisors who can serve as references for future job opportunities.
Importantly, summer employment helps teens develop the soft skills needed for long-term success in the workplace, such as punctuality, dressing appropriately, serving customers properly and getting along with supervisors and co-workers.
According to Chuck Goodrich, executive vice president of Gaylor Electric in Indianapolis, “Too many young people do not have workplace skills, but that isn’t their fault. It’s our fault if we don’t take time to teach them those skills.”
Lester Young, general manager of Bar Louie restaurant in Merrillville, agrees. “The beautiful thing about high school and college kids is they’re in the practice of learning. When you hire teens and young adults, you have the opportunity to mold them into the type of person you want them to be. You have the opportunity to set a standard.”
High school sophomore Jaylen Reese sees that big picture while looking for a job this summer. “It’s a great preparation to help you start to learn how to provide for your own,” Reese said, “and help you set goals so you can become successful in life.”
Bill Stanczykiewicz is president and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute. He can be reached at email@example.com.