As parents, we want our teens to learn responsibility, work hard and earn money. The same line of thinking can make many teens eager to get their first job. According to Statistics Canada, approximately 46% of Canadians ages 15 to 19 have jobs. But is an after-school job actually a good idea?
[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]working during the school year can have many positive benefits.[/pullquote]
On one hand, it may sound risky. An after-school job can leave your teen with less time for volunteering, extra-curricular activities, socializing and of course, doing their homework. Without sufficient skills to organize and prioritize, your teen might end up being pulled in too many directions, stressed out, tired or left with too little time to focus on getting good grades. At the end of the day, isn’t getting into a good university or college program their most important job?
A recent study by researchers at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia were intrigued by this dilemma. The researchers analyzed information from the Youth in Transition Survey by Statistics Canada to determine whether, in fact, teenage employment is bad. They looked at responses from nearly 250,000 young Canadians at various points as they grew up. They determined that working during the school year can have many positive benefits.
The researchers found that teens who worked between 25 to 31 hours during the school year experienced many advantages. For instance, the more hours a teen worked at age 15, the more likely they were to be working at age 21. In addition, teens who worked at 15 were more likely to earn more as they got older. Analysts found that 15-year-olds who worked 33 hours a week during the school year earned 25 percent more at age 23. Teens who worked too many hours, however, could experience negative effects.
It can be surmised that having to juggle the competing demands of school and work as teenagers teaches teens how to balance these demands later on. Additional responsibility helps them become more prepared, organized and adept at time management as they get older. Plus, the head start they have in terms of building their resume and networking can give them a leg up over teens who didn’t work during high school.
The Sauder School study also found that teens who worked during high school had better suited careers than those who didn’t work. Whether a teen worked for a family business or an external employer, they were more likely to have better-fitting jobs in the long term. That’s likely because working teaches teens from an early age what they do and don’t want to do in future. They are exposed to different work environments and management styles, helping them narrow down what sorts of occupations they want in future. Teens who don’t work in high school might end up having to discover these same lessons when they are already in the workforce.
There are still many unanswered questions and there’s no right answer. The study couldn’t determine the long-term consequence of teenage employment on future work patterns. For instance, are those who worked as teens happier than those who didn’t? Do they have lower divorce rates and a healthier family life as a result? In other words, working as a teen might not put you further ahead or guarantee a better life as an adult.
When deciding whether to let your teen work, there is a lot to consider. Do they want to work or are you pushing them in that direction? Are they learning responsibility and discipline from volunteering or extra-curricular commitments? Do they have a demanding academic schedule? Are they already struggling to balance coursework with teenage life and succeed academically? These are things you’ll want to consider, in addition to the research.
Indeed, parenting attitudes are changing, school is being seen as a teenager’s “job” and, in fact, fewer teens are working now than in previous years. It’s an individual decision, and one that only you and your teen can make. Now that you have some additional information at your fingertips, you are better equipped to have this all-important discussion with your teen.