By Peter Boys, CAFA The Financial Coach
As a father of three grown children who all worked summer jobs, I know what they went through to land these jobs. This is a rite of passage for thousands of Canadian teenagers every year.
Regardless of whether they are flipping burgers, minding toddlers or any of the thousands of seasonal temporary jobs, it is an ideal way for teens to earn money during the school break. In the process, they are learning the need to be at work on time, to be properly dressed and respectful, and being supervised by someone other than their parents.
A recent university study focused on 15-year-olds entering the workforce and draws from 10 years of employment data collected by Statistics Canada. The team set out to test some assumptions found in income inequality literature that suggest adolescent or “teen” labour is a societal problem. Some scholars in the field believe the stress of working and time spent away from family is unduly harmful to young people.
They wanted to determine if there were employment circumstances where such work was actually beneficial for the development of the teens. The study they found ample evidence that it can be.
The study determined that young, novice workers gained other rewards with summer jobs beyond just their paycheque. It found that teens who work for the summer are more likely than their unemployed peers to land good jobs later on and earned more money in their careers. This was found also to be the case for students who worked at part-time jobs during the school year.
For instance, those who worked year-round at the age of 15 had a higher chance of being employed at 17 to 21, had higher incomes at ages 17 to 25, and at ages 21 and 23 had higher-quality job matches.
The study also found working teens gain a competitive advantage in the labour market by acquiring valuable soft skills, such as better time management, access to valuable networks outside of their circle of family, friends and school, and they also gained refined job-hunting abilities. Teens further benefited from learning early on what they like to do, and, critically, what they don’t like. This, in turn, “enables them to be matched to better-fitting work environments,” the study concludes.
Researchers acknowledge there are conditions where teens suffer, particularly working too many hours. According to the study, positive results over the long term came with teens who worked up to 43 hours a week over the summer, or 33 hours a week during the school year. They found that under certain conditions it can, in fact, be connected with positive later life outcomes.
Growing up on a farm in England and having chores to do both on the farm and around the house, I was well prepared to find part-time jobs while attending trade schools and college. Plus, when I arrived in Canada 48 years ago I had the confidence to have a job within a week of landing in Calgary. It was not the best job, but it paid for rent and groceries and allowed me time to find a job as a service representative for New Holland Farm equipment in Alberta.