Teenage Unemployment Blues

Many high school and college students, who are normally camp counselors, are unemployed as many in-person and residential summer programs were cancelled. While a financial deficit for many students in the short term, cascading consequences may also affect students’ prosperity in the long term. 

On May 24, Patrick Thomas of The Wall Street Journal wrote an article chronicling the current state of teenage unemployment: 

Young Americans are having little luck finding summer jobs. Coronavirus outbreaks throughout the country have dried up many of the traditional opportunities that high school and college-age students rely on each summer. Junior workers seeking seasonal employment are striking out so much that the April unemployment rate for teens aged 16 to 19 hit 32%, marking a high not seen since at least 1948…as more teens hit the job market in June and July, when school is generally out, that rate typically climbs higher.

The Wall Street Journal, May 24, 2020

For college students, lack of summer employment can affect their ability to pay college expenses in the 2020-21 school year, creating impetus to borrow more or possibly take a leave of absence from their college studies, prolonging their matriculation and creating risk of not completing their undergraduate degrees. 

Additionally, since college students are typically teaching assistants in pre-college camps for high school students, many teens who were planning to explore interests in the unstructured time after their Junior and Sophomore years, are now missing the opportunity to realize their aptitude as well as are concerned about gaps in their extracurricular resumes and may diminish their competitiveness for college admissions. 

Furthermore, for those elementary and middle school students who attend summer camps where high school students are counselors, are also idle at home, with no break for their working parents.  Also, long term, elementary and middle school students are missing the mentorship with their high school “idols”. They don’t get to “hang out with the big kids” and believe they’re special since a high schooler is interested in their well-being. 

For the first time in 72 years, nearly four generations, more teens and young adults will miss the chance to be employed during the summer break from school.  Although we do not know to what degree, there will be long-ranging effects for this generation who have already been impacted by their share of global shocks including the COVID-19 health crisis, and now the second historic economic crisis in their lifetime. Despite proving its resilience, the broader question is how long can this generation’s resilience last before there’s a radical shift in their views and ideas regarding their roles in the culture in which they were raised?

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About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
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