Teenage employment rate at highest in over 10 years

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KANSAS CITY, Mo — With school out for the summer, millions of high school and college students are looking for work and many businesses are looking for employees.

In fact, the employment rate for teens is the highest in over a decade. But experts say that doesn’t always mean teens get the jobs they want.

Johari Primose is a sophomore at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy. She feels lucky to have secured two jobs this summer, when many of her peers struggle to find the perfect fit.

“You don’t have that many options. Like you have Worlds of Fun, you have Betty Rae’s, you could have Burger King (or) McDonald’s,” Primose said. “When you work there, you don’t gain knowledge.”

According to a report by researchers at Drexel University, an average of 33% of teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 will be employed this summer.

This is the highest rate since 34% employment in the summer of 2007.

But even with the demand for teenage employees and the willingness of employers to pay more than minimum wage, employment for teens today isn’t nearly as close to what it was in the ’70s.

William Well, the executive director of aSTEAM Village, says it’s because kids want jobs that last.

“They want a job that leads to a career or leads them to being able to get into college, or they want to be paid really well,” Wells said.

He says the job market is tough for budding teenagers. The number of jobs available has dwindled since the pandemic and teens are fighting for jobs they normally wouldn’t compete for.

This is why he encourages employers in large companies to invest in young people.

“Otherwise, you just condition them to live paycheck and live in survival mode, which unfortunately a lot of their parents are,” Wells said.

Wells’ mission is to connect teens to high-paying jobs that are in high demand for employees. He thinks the digital economy is where young minds should tap into.

He created the aSTEAM Village RedTail Digital Engineering Alliance, which teaches teens how to bring broadband to the most underserved and outdated areas of the city.

“We want to bring broadband to the third arrondissement because it has the worst internet and it’s mostly blacks and browns,” Primose said. “So we want them to be able to participate in the digital economy. We’re really innovative and creative and if you don’t have young people in your business, or working for you, you can’t come up with new ideas.

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