The Need for Teens

Georgia Kirkendall

Not sure what to do with yourself this summer? While the pandemic is dwindling and summer activities that weren’t available last year are starting to open up, for most kids this 2021 season looks as if it’s going to be a bit drab. Thankfully, the job market is opening up, and adding benefits to attract bored teenagers. With raised wages and flexible hours, how bad could it really be trucking through orders in the Burger King drive-thru? 

Nationally, there has been an emergence of massive unemployment. Many businesses have been struggling to find workers, which doesn’t make much sense at first, given recent events. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has put many people out of work, especially in the restaurant industry, as businesses lost customers and investments. One would think with workplaces reopening with new COVID guidelines, candidates would be scrambling in line for an interview anywhere; yet, the opposite seems to be the case, and for a number of reasons. Parents have to look after toddlers whose daycares are still closed, workers have grown accustomed to their home environment and prefer remote jobs, and some even earn more money from unemployment insurance benefits than what a grappling workplace would be able to afford them. 

With this sudden job crisis, many business owners and managers are turning to a backup: teens. With school letting out and COVID restrictions freeing up time that might have been spent at camp or programs, a new possible employment age group could get businesses just enough help to get back on their feet. Already teenagers are seen joining the workforce. About 256,000 teens were employed this past April, and the count of 16 to 19-year-old employees is higher than it’s been since 2008. 

Wage levels for teenage workers regained their pre-pandemic numbers in March, and May witnessed an increase above that. While better pay is a definite bonus, and workers are an obvious need for many businesses, some are recommending against the push for young workers this summer. Educators are anxious about jobs distracting students from school and college search, especially after being hard hit after a school year with the pandemic. Psychologist Lisa Damour recommended in her New York Times article (link below) that teenagers take the 2021 summer to recuperate. “In the more than two decades I’ve spent as a psychologist working with adolescents, I have never seen teenagers so worn down at the end of an academic year as they are right now,” wrote Damour. “Whether classes have been online, in-person or hybrid, young people are dragging themselves to the finish line of a frustrating, depressing and, for some, unbearably isolating year of school.” 

Sound familiar? If so, and you really are ready for a break from this intense year, forgo the summer of employment. It’s completely understandable, and most likely necessary for many teenagers after a tough school year. Although, if you’re ready to tackle something new this summer, or just need a distraction, there isn’t a better summer for young workers than now.