Summer Jobs Hard To Find For Teens

SLATE funds valuable work experience for fourteen teens this summer

June 27, 2012 | 2 min reading time

This article is 10 years old. It was published on June 27, 2012.

Teen employment Ray King working at St. Louis City HallBy Art Holliday -
St. Louis (
June 21, 2012

Summer jobs have always been a rite of passage for teens, but there's a lot of competition out there.

The economic recession has hit teenagers harder than any age group. Older workers are competing with teens for entry-level jobs. So if teenagers can't get summer jobs, how are they supposed to earn money and learn to become good employees?

It seems like a typical day at the City License Collectors Office. But it's anything but typical for eleven teenagers who landed a coveted summer job bucking a national trend of teen unemployment.

They are serving as file clerks, assisting with the massive amount of filing and record-keeping in the license collector's office.

It's a program sponsored by MERS Goodwill and funded by the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment. The paycheck is important, but the teens are learning crucial workplace skills.

Hillary Wagner/MERS Goodwill: "Being at work on time. Getting along with their co-workers, their supervisor, following instructions. Being flexible. Becoming part of that work community and be successful" said Hillary Wagner.

Elisha Williams will be a criminal justice major at Harris Stowe in the fall. She's wasn't sure she'd be working this summer.

I applied for over ten jobs. I applied at Shop N Save, McDonalds, Wendy's but I didn't get any calls back," said Elisha Williams.

It has gotten much tougher for teenagers to land summer jobs. A recent Associated Press report says fewer than three in ten American teens have landed jobs. For the teens in the MERS Goodwill/WIA program, getting work experience at the license collector's office is a big deal.

"One of the biggest deals ever because finding a job is not easy," said Ray King.

King will attend Alabama A&M in the fall, where he hopes to play baseball and begin the professional journey of becoming a dentist.

"Getting experience. Making my resume longer. I got references, so that's the biggest part of it," he said.

Cameron Lee: "If you hadn't gotten this job, how tough would that have been? Very tough. Because I've been looking for a job since I was about 16. So it's been two years and that' s pretty tough. This was an opportunity to get into the door, give me some experience to put on a resume," said Cameron Lee.

"They come and work very hard. They show through their work action that they appreciate the opportunity and they want to keep it," said Darius Chapman with the License Collectors Office.

There are 14 teenagers working at St. Louis City Hall this summer. But if seven out of ten teens can't find work, and those are the numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, teens who need money and job skills are losing out on a valuable experience.

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