If you are an avid Boston Globe reader, you may have noticed an article that appeared earlier this week called “Walsh makes push to get struggling teens summer jobs.” A major priority for the new Mayor, providing summer jobs for teens represents an investment in the welfare of the city itself. As the article points out, many teens need money to buy necessities and even to support their families with household expenses. The distinct disadvantage to the scarcity of jobs for teens is that, according to a study by the Brookings Institution, the persistent lack of a paying job can lead to prolonged joblessness.
Employers provide students not only with a meaningful summer job experience and a headstart to their professional careers, but also an increased ability to make purchases with their earnings. Let’s take a look at the numbers from last year’s BBA Summer Jobs program, which employed 58 diverse Boston youth. Each student earned $9 per hour and worked for 35 hours each week over 8 weeks; that’s $2,250 earned for the summer per student, and overall a $146,160 investment in educating and shaping the future workforce of Boston. This in turn drives money back into the Massachusetts economy and, in many cases, provides for those household expenses for the students’ families. There is a very real economic benefit to providing summer jobs that comes from a relatively small investment by employers.
We learned about other practical benefits to employing Boston’s youth at an event hosted by the Private Industry Council last week. The evening program brought together an excellent turnout of business leaders, prospective employers, and City officials, including Mayor Walsh, to address one common theme: ‘how do we help our youth find gainful summer employment?’ The materials provided alerted us to high unemployment rate for teens in Massachusetts – 33 percent – and also offered some insight about the social benefits of summer jobs. Holding gainful summer employment has shown to improve behaviors that are otherwise correlated with youth violence, including ‘risky behavior’ and ‘violent or delinquent behavior.’ Teens with summer jobs were less likely to use alcohol, sell or use illegal drugs, and ignore figures of authority. It stands to reason that if we can employ more teens in the summer months, when they have the most free time and the greatest risk of using that free time unwisely, we can possibly decrease the likelihood of teen delinquency.
We also had the chance to meet students and observe firsthand what profound potential they have to become valuable members of the city’s workforce. When one young man found out we were from the Boston Bar Association, he couldn’t stop talking about how much he would love to be a lawyer. We told him about the BBA’s Summer Jobs Program, and he was enthusiastic at the prospect of being able to work in a firm or legal department. This young man has big plans and the drive to achieve them, but without the financial and professional support of a summer job, he may have difficulty following through.
Hearing the statistics on teen unemployment and the struggle to combat it made us even more proud of the BBA’s Summer Jobs program, which is already set to offer 59 Boston public high school students the chance to work in a law firm or legal department throughout the summer. Like many other employers around the city, we are enthusiastic about the prospects of Boston’s youth and are committed to helping with teen unemployment. If you can expose kids to education and on-the-job training early on, chances are they’ll do very well in life. It is up to the employers of the City of Boston to provide an introduction to the professional world and give these teens their chance.