It's becoming a rare thing to go into a fast food restaurant these days and find teenagers working manning the crews. I suppose there's a lot of reasons for that; the sagging economy has led grown folks to get work where they can, the fast food serving as entry point employment for new immigrants, or maybe kids these days are just lazy and only want to play video games.
Ok, that last item was out of line, but the reality is that kids who are looking for employment are having a hard time making that happen this summer. From the Wall Street Journal:
More teens will be looking for summer jobs this year than last -- but fewer will be getting them.
After sinking to a new low in 2007, teen summer employment is expected to fall again, to the lowest rate in the 60-year history of government jobs data. Working teens ages 16 to 19 will slide to 34% of the population, from 34.5% last year, predicts Andrew Sum of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University. That's down from 45% in 2000 and a high of 48.5% in 1989.When I was a teenager almost every kid I knew eagerly awaited the summer because that was when we could work and earn money to do things we wanted to do but couldn't afford to because our families were poor. Not to mention being able to help Mom out with a little change here and there. The jobs we worked were all entry level: fast food, lawn mowing, etc. Jobs that most adults weren't trying to do. Now however, as this article goes on to say:
More adults, including unemployed college grads, older workers, former welfare recipients, immigrants and working adults seeking second jobs, are competing for low-skilled hourly posts. Teens are increasingly confined to jobs in the service and retailing sectors, and many employers have raised minimum hiring ages to 18 or 19.
There used to be summer jobs programs almost everywhere for high school kids. These programs, funded through federal and state grants, provided students with opportunities to make some money, learn responsibility, and stay out of trouble. By and large, most of these programs are gone, and to the detriment of society as a whole. Their disappearance, and the difficulty gaining employment through regular channels, again has me wondering, "What exactly does this country have against it's own kids?"
With the educational system producing 50% dropout rates, and fewer and fewer opportunities for gainful employment, what options are our kids going to be left with? More importantly, what options will this country have as our competitiveness continues to decline, due to an increasingly uneducated, unskilled, workforce?
How we plan to address this problem is an issue I'd like to see on the political radar, but I'm not holding my breath waiting for it.