Points of View

Summer Jobs Teach Young People Employability Skills

Sam Stebbins

Schools out! Now what?

School is out for the summer in West Michigan, and that means many young people are starting or searching for summer jobs. Nationwide, more than 20 million teens and young adults find jobs in the months between April and July, and 97% of people will have a job before they turn 22 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In Michigan, most of these young people work in the Accommodation and Food Services industry, with about 12.5% of all employees in this industry under the age of 18 and 27.1% under the age of 21.

Regardless of the industry, summer months see a spike in youth employment every year, rising by 1.9 million in 2016. This is for a good reason: working too much or too often while taking classes can negatively impact students’ grades, so working during the summer allows them to earn money and save without adding pressure on top of academics.

Employment can be incredibly important for a young person’s future. Teens with jobs are less likely to drop out of high school or become involved in crime and more likely to enroll in college. Employed young people also increase their potential earnings in adulthood.


A time to build valuable skills

That’s often because summer jobs allow young people to develop employability skills, or “soft skills,” while on the job. Employability skills translate to nearly every workplace and are highly valued by employers, but not necessarily taught in the classroom. They include:

  • Initiative and perseverance,
  • Responsibility,
  • Teamwork and citizenship,
  • Customer service,
  • Problem solving and ingenuity,
  • Flexibility and resilience,
  • Attendance and punctuality, and
  • Being drug and/or crime free.

Gaining employability skills early increases a young person’s likelihood of employment as they transition into adulthood, as many employers expect applicants to already possess these skills in entry-level jobs. One study even found that employed young people are more likely to go on to college or a job than those who do not participate in work-based learning experiences.


Why it Matters for Employers

While there are distinct advantages to summer employment for young people, hiring teens and young adults can benefit employers as well.

The advantages for employers go beyond the lower wages that teens make while working part time. Employers can also benefit from the new perspectives that young people bring to a workplace as well as the fact that younger employees are a “blank canvas.” Employees with little work experience are less likely have any existing habits, and employers may find that it is easier to train and groom young people.

Essentially, employing young people in the summer both helps prepare them for future careers and holds benefits for employers. To learn more about Talent 2025’s work with preparing young people for their futures, check out our K-12 Education Working Group