Teens will soon be out of school and looking for summer jobs

Improved economy will help early job seekers

April 11, 2011|By Eileen Ambrose, The Baltimore Sun

Young workers will have to scramble to land jobs — even unpaid ones — this summer, but the employment outlook for them is brighter than it was last year.

"The economy generally is picking up," says Robert Trumble, a management professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. "If unemployment keeps inching down … it increases opportunities for teens in the summer."

Last summer was the worst for young job seekers since 1948, when the government began tracking the numbers. The unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds in July — usually the height of summer employment — was 19.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It was even worse for minorities. The unemployment rate for young blacks, for instance, was nearly 34 percent.

This summer isn't expected to be as brutal, but teens are encouraged to start looking for work early. They again will face stiff competition for part-time and entry-level jobs.

"Teens are running into college students and running into adults who have been out of the workforce," says Michael Erwin, senior career adviser with CareerBuilder.com. "They will have to be scrappy."

Teens across the country might also have less help finding work because federal stimulus money that funded youth job programs the past two years is no longer available.

Baltimore is feeling the pinch. More than 5,000 youths recently registered for Baltimore's YouthWorks program, which finds summer jobs in the public and private sectors for young people ages 14 to 21. Jobs aren't guaranteed.

The program, which uses government funds and private donations to pay the youths' wages, is about $1.5 million short of hitting its goal, says Brice Freeman, a spokesman for the Mayor's Office of Employment Development. Unless the money is raised, more than 1,000 youths who registered won't get a job, he says.

To counteract the loss of federal stimulus money, the Labor Department last week announced a campaign to encourage businesses to hire 100,000 young workers nationwide this summer. Banking giant Wells Fargo and Research In Motion, maker of the BlackBerry, each promised to hire 1,000 young adults. UPS, the delivery company, committed to hire 1,500.

Still, 100,000 new jobs won't be enough to fill the demand. A teen's best bet is to start a search before the field is too crowded.

"Get moving now. Don't wait," says Trumble. Summer may seem far off to teens, but it's not to employers that plan ahead. And the more ambitious teens are already knocking on doors, Trumble says.

Here are other tips:

Network Ask everyone you know, including neighbors, relatives, parents' friends or members of your church, if they know of any employers hiring this summer.

Some large employers will hire employees' children for the summer. Ask your parents to check if their employer is hiring, says Debbie Shalom, owner of Amazing Resumes and Coaching Services in Baltimore County.

Look at local companies whose products you like and use, and write to the human resources department about your interest in working there, Shalom adds.

Seek guidance Maryland has nearly three dozen One-Stop Career Centers — including three in Baltimore — that can provide job leads as well as advice on interviewing and resume writing.

Think big picture Some teens dismiss certain jobs, such as flipping burgers, as beneath them. But entry-level jobs at the right company can lead to bigger things, says CareerBuilder's Erwin.

McDonald's, for example, has a reputation for helping employees work their way up the ladder, he says. "A lot of people who started out making fries now own franchises," he says.

UPS is another firm that promotes workers within the company, says Betty Amend, vice president of human resources. She started at the company 27 years ago as a summer hire.

Also, if you can't find a paying job or can afford to work for free, consider an unpaid internship or volunteer work, says Charles Purdy, senior editor with Monster.com

Not only can you pick up some skills that will look good on a resume, but you will expand your network of people who might be able to help you find work in the future, he says.

Look the part The biggest pitfall for teens is not taking a job search seriously, Purdy says. They fail to dress up and prepare for an interview or don't bother to write a resume, he says.

"For the employer, they don't see a summer hire any different from a regular hire," Purdy says. "They expect that same level of professionalism."


Employment resources

•oedworks.com provides information on One-Stop Career locations in Baltimore and other job services. Businesses can go to the site to donate to the city's YouthWorks program.

•www.yobaltimore.org gives information about Baltimore's youth opportunity centers designed to sharpen employment skills for those who left school before graduating.

•mySkillsmyFuture.org, a job search site sponsored by the federal government.

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