The unemployment rate for teens aged 16 to 19 years of age is a staggering 24.5 percent. In 2007 the teenage unemployment rate for 16 to 19 year olds was 16.3 percent. California and Georgia lead the country in teen unemployment at 34.6 percent.
Many changes have occurred since I was a teenager that has contributed to fewer jobs being available to teenagers. If you have been to area grocery stores and department stores you will see that cashier free check outs are on the rise. As in many other segments of the economy where job elimination is an issue as technological advances continue to remove the hands of labor such as was seen in the auto industry.
Some say the increase in the minimum wage has pushed down on hiring teenagers; states like California have an $8 an hour minimum wage scale. Other factors that were not anticipated are the participation of older workers who are competing for jobs previously held by young people.
As the recession has taken its toll on the overall economy, it has forced some retirees to come out of retirement to take jobs that youth would have taken historically. Many older people are taking these jobs as their retirement incomes are tied to the vicissitudes of the stock market and dramatic declines cut into the incomes of retired seniors leaving them no choice but to reenter the workforce.
Retirees may also be facing significant upturns in insurance premiums and copays for medications and doctor visits. In addition, teenagers sometimes face an attitude from adults that expresses distrust of them in several ways. Some adults fear that teenagers may sue them if they hurt themselves, still other adult’s fear that a teenager may make an allegation of inappropriate behavior and possibly the most difficult attitude to overcome is that teenagers today are lazy and lacking in the skill sets to be in the work place.
I was fortunate enough to work should to shoulder with many adults during my teenage years. I learned many important skills during these opportunities. Principally, I learned the value of hard work and the importance of persistence. One summer, I picked rocks out of a field for an entire summer. At the summers end, I was convinced that I knew what Sisyphus must have experienced. The field was so full of rocks that new rocks seemed to appear every day. At some point it became me against the rocks, this vision became especially clear to me as this was a solitary effort, just me and the rocks.
I also worked with a variety of young adults that were working at farms full time. I learned a great deal form these young men, often I learned as much about what not do as I did about what I should do. Part of their sometimes reckless behavior was simply high-test testosterone influenced behavior and at other times it seemed that they were racing against the burden of so much physical labor that needed to be done. Racing across the bumpy hayfield sometimes dumping part of the load that would need to be reloaded and losing some bales of hay that would break. I learned the most from the older or middle-aged workers. They usually paced themselves and were solid workers that did not make mistakes. They were always careful around machinery, never misusing a piece of equipment and always performing regular maintenance, a grease gun at the ready and a variety of wrenches and screwdrivers, adjusting and tightening as needed. They seemed to have a bigger vision than just the physical work. They checked the gas and oil in the tractor the water in the jug and tools in the tool box.
I think I learned a great deal from these hard working men, experiences that many of today’s youth are missing. They will miss these essential youth experiences and the important lessons imbedded there in. Along with many common sense and practical lessons about life that I learned, I am proud to say that I retired my last pickup in good running condition with just over 249,000 miles on it.
Those wise men that I met with a grease gun always nearby showed me what careful use and regular maintenance can do, lessons not just about machinery but also about life.
Remember, all kids count.
Reach the writer at Hurlburt@wildblue.net