Kids Today Won’t Work and That’s Bad for Business

Ah, summer. When teenagers finally trade the grind of school for the excitement a summer job. Except, now they don’t, and that’s bad for them, and bad for business.

Over the last forty years, teen employment has dropped by one third. The drivers? Summer school and extracurriculars?* I imagined either wage inflation (one does not hire a novice at the same price as a seasoned hourly wage earner) or laziness encouraged by overindulgent parents. I’m wrong on both counts. Whatever the cause, you and employers of future workers who did not gain summer job experience will suffer, as will the kids.

Summer jobs offer at least four valuable things not easily replaced.

  • Hard skills: inventory, construction, and rudimentary sales.
  • Soft skills. Punctuality, conflict management, and customer service.
  • Work ethic. Among the most sought after of attitudes, it does not develop on its own.
  • (And my favorite) what one prefers and does well by trying new things.

My earliest job was in construction. I still use the skills I learned in the hot, Texas sun, and, if nothing else, I’m still not afraid of the hot, Texas sun!

One must gain experience at some point in life. The amazing economic good our country produces has always begun with youthful employment. How’s that work if we push the starting point out several years? Of course it doesn’t. The teens who do work have always enjoyed an advantage over their nonworking peers – that advantage is growing.

Questions for The Ethics Award:

How do you encourage teenagers to get a summer job?

How do you train the next generation of workers?

*Source: The Wall Street Journal, 24 May 2017.