When President Obama proposed the American Jobs Act (AJA) he offered the $1.5 billion Pathways Back to Work fund which would provide jobs for low-income youth. AJA did not pass in Congress, so now teens and young adults are feeling the effects. These programs provide life changing experiences for kids, especially those from low-income communities. The participants get the chance to create meaningful working relationships with professionals. Without these programs youth can become more susceptible to negative influences and could miss out on an opportunity that could lead to permanent employment in the future.
Teen employment has been declining over the years; 10 years ago teen employment was at 63%. Now it is only 48%. The statistics for minority youth are even worse. Last July 42% of Hispanic teens were employed while only 34% of African-American teens worked. Low skilled summer work is being picked up by college graduates and older adults struggling to make ends meet. With such a competitive job market, lack of experience is hurting many young job seekers; but how will they gain experience if they never get a chance to work?
Although the American Jobs Act did not pass the Department of Labor created the Summer Jobs Plus initiative. The program aims to get more businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies signed up to participate and links young people to summer jobs in their area. If America’s young people don’t get the opportunity to work now they may never.
I worked as a waitress when I was a teenager. It didn’t earn me very much money but it led me to other jobs and gave me skills that I use in my professional career now. Summer jobs are temporary but the experiences are everlasting.