Did you have a part-time job growing up? In the past, having a part-time job was a staple of nearly every high school student’s schedule. Recently, however, summer jobs and teen participation in the labor force are on the decline.

The employment rate among teens in the U.S. fell by 19 percent between the years before and during the recession, around 2000 and 2010. According to the BLS, teen labor force participation has been on a downward trend, and that trend is expected to continue well into 2024. This decline in participation means that there are fewer teens employed in the U.S., but there’s also fewer teens who are actively looking for work.

Today’s Students Don’t Have Interest in Part-Time Jobs

What’s causing this lack of interest in part-time jobs for Millennials and Gen Z? According to a new study from Pew Research, there are a few different factors to blame. First, the demands of college admissions offices are scaring many students off from working in retail or flipping burgers over the summer. Now students are taking summer classes, volunteering to strengthen their resume or even taking unpaid internships, which the BLS doesn’t count as being employed.

There are also some high schools who have shifted to longer school years, meaning there’s less time in a student’s schedule to take on a summer or part-time job. The recession also didn’t help the matter, as more experienced workers often had to take low-skill, entry-level jobs to make ends meet.

This low interest in employment among teens is unfortunate, because a part-time job teaches work ethicand soft skills from a young age. Although it might seem unrelated, scooping ice cream or working retail can make you a better doctor, accountant, teacher or benefit any other career path you might choose.

Are Part-Time Jobs Necessary?

The short answer is yes, every teen can benefit from working a job in high school, or as early as they’re legally allowed to have one. Even before that, having assigned chores around the house, babysitting, dog walking and tutoring younger children are all great ways to establish work ethic from a young age.

But it’s not just about teaching kids work ethic. Here are a few other reasons a summer, or year-round job, can help teens set up a foundation for future career success:

  • Learn money-management skills, such as saving
  • Get an idea for their future career path and decide what they like (or don’t like) to do
  • Build self-confidence and develop a sense of responsibility
  • Learn basic work skills such as putting together a resume, interviewing and working with different colleagues

On the other hand, working isn’t always a choice for teens. The cost of a college education gets more and more expensive every year, so many teens are forced to pick up jobs in order to help their parents carry the burden. A teen who gets a job early on in high school might be able to save up enough money that they need fewer student loans or parental assistance.

How to Choose the Right Job  

For teens who are interested in working, where can they find jobs? According to Pew Research’s study, restaurants seem to be the way to go.

Their research found that almost 2.1 million of the estimated 6.2 million teens who were employed last July worked in “accommodation and food services,” compared with 1.9 million in July 2000. Retail employment is slipping among teens however, likely due to the massive cultural shift towards online shopping.

The part-time job options for young, inexperienced workers might seem limited, but thanks to the internet and new technology, there are plenty of options out there if you get creative.  Companies like UPS can be a great option, and teach young people valuable customer service skills. They also offer a college education program, where they can help college students fund their education. Starbucks has similar education programsand great benefits for young workers.

There are also ways tech-savvy teens can use their online skills to get a job. Join an online tutoring service, join a dog-walking app like Rover or start making YouTube videos. If a teen loves art, they can even flex their entrepreneurial muscles and start a shop on Etsyor eBay.

If you want to learn more about how to build a strong work ethic in the younger generations, check out our Bring Your ‘A’ Game Youth Curriculum. This version was specifically designed for high school-aged students, to help set them up for successful careers.