Teen employment rate highest in more than 10 years, teens still struggle to find jobs leading to careers


With school out for summer, millions of high school and college students are looking for work and many businesses are looking for employees.

In fact, the teen employment rate is the highest it has been in more than a decade. But experts say that does not always mean teens are getting the jobs they want.

Johari Primose is a rising sophomore at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy. She feels lucky to have secured two jobs this summer, while many of her peers struggle to find the perfect match.

“You don’t have as many options. Like you have Worlds of Fun, you have Betty Rae’s, you might have Burger King (or) McDonald's,” Primose said. “When you are working there you are not gaining knowledge.”

According to a report by researchers at Drexel University, an average of 33% of teens between 16 and 19-years-old will be employed this summer.

That is the highest rate since 34% employment in the summer of 2007.

But even with the demand for teen employees and the willingness of employers to pay more than minimum wage, today’s teen employment is not as close to what it used to be in the 70s.

William Well, the executive director of aSTEAM Village, says it is because kids want jobs that last.

“They want a job that leads to a career or leads them to be able to get into college, or they want to be paid very well,” Wells said.

He says the job market is tough on aspiring teens. The number of jobs available has decreased since the pandemic and teens are fighting for jobs they normally would not have competed for.

That is why he encourages employers of big companies to invest in young people.

“Otherwise, you are just conditioning them to live paycheck to paycheck and live in survival mode, which unfortunately a lot of their parents are,” Wells said.

Wells’ mission is to connect teens to high-paying jobs that are in high demand for employees. He believes the Digital economy is where young minds should tap into.

He created the steam Village RedTail Digital Engineering Alliance, which equips teens on how to install broadband in the most underserved and dated areas of the city.

“We want to bring broadband to the third district because it has the worst internet and it’s mostly black and brown people," Primose said. "And so we want them to be able to participate in the digital economy. We’re really innovative and creative and if you don’t have young people in your company, or working for you, you can’t get new ideas.”

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