The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Jobless teens face tougher futures

  • The teen unemployment is at a historic low.
  • When people don't work as teens, they tend not to develop good working habits.
  • Milwaukee has programs in place to ensure the quality of the workforce stays strong.

Economic hardship has fallen on all sectors of the American workforce. People are losing their jobs as companies downsize in order to weather the tough financial times.

A portion of the population that might be overlooked — but is just as affected as the others — is the teenage workforce.

The national teenage unemployment rate is 20 percent, according to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, up from 13 percent in 2000. Using the Bureau's definition of unemployment, this means that 20 percent of men and women age 16 to 19 who want a job cannot find one.

Not having a job as a teen adversely affects attitudes and abilities down the line, said Andrew Sum, director of Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies and author of a study published this fall about the historically low figures of both summer and year-round teen unemployment.

"Their high levels of joblessness in their teen years will exacerbate their difficulties in transitioning to the career labor market in their late teens and early twenties," Sum said. "(It will) reduce their future wage and earnings potential."

Milwaukee already has programs in place to ensure this workforce deterioration does not happen here.

Milwaukee's Department of City Development runs Earn and Learn, one such program.

"(Earn and Learn provides) opportunities to develop work-readiness skills while they earn wages working in government, community- and faith-based organizations and private sector businesses," said William Malone, the Department of City Development's Youth Development Coordinator.

Earn and Learn focuses on exposing youths to the working world and preparing them to become working adults, Malone said.

Another organization, the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board (formerly the Private Industry Council) teams up with local companies to give teens valuable employment opportunities. The MAWIB is comprised of 31 local business, community and government leaders. It connects employers who want to help get the youth involved in the workforce with teens who need jobs.

"In partnership with local leaders from government, private industry and labor, MAWIB develops workforce solutions that meet and anticipate regional economic development needs," its Web site reads.

John Kissinger, a member of the MAWIB, said employers are seeing the mutual benefit that being involved in this kind of job program has.

"This is a way to get involved at an early stage, and it's something I think is fairly (possible)," Kissinger said.

But the MAWIB goes beyond simply finding teens jobs.

Through its Web site and other programs, it teaches teens money-management skills, gives reasons why they should stay in school, offers test prep courses and provides options on how to pay for college.

These are good programs for cities to have, Sum said, and he advocates their presence in cities across the country. But more needs to be done on a national level, he said.

"The Federal Reserve has just provided $85 billion for the private sector insurance firm AIG, but the federal government has provided not one dollar for youth," Sum said.

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