There was value in summer jobs

The OlympianJuly 9, 2014 

If you’re a teenager in Thurston County, chances are that you don’t have a summer job. In a little-noticed change over the past decade, fewer teens are seeking and finding summer employment.

Unlike previous generations, a higher percentage of today’s teens will graduate from high school without the formative experience of working in a team, dealing with customers, getting to work on time and learning good workplace habits.

Between 1948 and 1989 more than half of teenagers had summer jobs. By 2003, that number had slipped to 42 percent, and then plummeted to just 25 percent last year.

The Great Recession has been a factor. Publicly funded summer jobs have all but disappeared, and adults now hold many of the low-wage, entry-level private sector jobs.

This is especially bad news for teens from low-income families who need summer work to buy school clothes and supplies.

Academic pressures have led more teens to choose summer school or unpaid internships over jobs, and rising tuition costs have lessened the relative value of summer wages in college savings plans.

We lament the apparent passing of this rite of passage, and wonder how it will alter our social and economic landscape.

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