Preparing Teens for the Workforce
It is vital to the well being of our communities that teenagers are prepared to enter the workforce, whether that is after high school or college. It is important for the teen – obviously they want to be successful and have a better chance if they can maintain employment. It is important for their parents – who want their children to be able to support themselves. And, consider this: it is better for our community and nation. Both taxpayers and society lose out when the potential of our youth is not realized. Teens that are unprepared for the workforce are less likely to be employed and more likely to rely on government supports, experience poor health, and be involved in criminal activity. One study reports that, in 2011, the lifetime economic burden of youth ages 16-24 that were unprepared for work will cost taxpayers $1.6 trillion. As a nation, it benefits us to invest the time to prepare young people to enter the workforce. Below are some tips on how to do that.
One step in preparing youth for the workforce is teaching adolescents how to write a resume, fill out and submit an application, and handle an interview. Read our previous blog “How Teens Can Get that First Job” to help teens with this process. Be sure to explain how they can build a more impressive resume by volunteering in the community, participating in school activities, obtaining experience in areas of interest to them, and identifying possible references they can use.
Another important way to prepare youth is by emphasizing, and encouraging, appropriate behaviors and attitudes. Teens must recognize the importance of being on time, dressing appropriately, giving respect to a supervisor, communicating clearly, and making eye contact. These may seem minor, but without these basic qualities, teens may be unable to get hired, or find themselves fired. Parents and teachers should also be teaching their children how to solve problems, make positive decisions, and demonstrate leadership. You can review our previous blog for tips on how to teach problem solving skills.
Finally, adults need to provide adolescents the opportunity to explore possible careers. Young people are often not aware of all of the different types of careers available to them or what types of skills each career needs. Everyone knows that if you can find a career that you are passionate about, you will be more successful and happier. But finding that passion can be hard, especially if your view is limited. How do we expect young people to dream if they don’t know what they can dream about? Career exploration gives young people opportunities to learn about various career possibilities and gain an understanding of the knowledge and skills various jobs require. Ways for students to gain exposure to various careers are: field trips to businesses and companies, presentations at school by people in different careers, career fairs, internships, accompanying an adult to work, and academies or other programs with curriculum teaching skills for particular fields. There are also online tools that can help their career exploration, such as the Occupational Handbook by the Department of Labor – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The great thing about career exploration is that, if a young person finds a career that excites them, they are more likely to graduate, improve their academic performance, set goals and pursue them, improve their attitude about school, and have higher self-esteem.
Your efforts to help a teen on the path to a bright future will help our communities for years to come. So, if you are a parent, take the time to teach your teen workforce skills. If you are a teacher, find ways to work career exploration in your curriculum. If you work, invite a teen to shadow you. The hour or two you invest can change a life.