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Teens Missing Out On Summer Jobs Are Losing More Than Just A Paycheck

Two young men beach lifeguards watch people swimming in the blue ocean with waves crashing on a sandy beach. Room for text.

As the school year winds down, many students jump at the chance to get a summer job. Unfortunately, a steady rise in teen unemployment has made it increasingly difficult for students to find summer jobs, causing them to miss out on opportunities to develop soft skills.

The issue

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall teen employment has been steadily declining for nearly 40 years. In recent years, 16- to 19-year-olds have struggled to find summer jobs, even within industries that previously relied on teenage workers.

As the retail industry has declined, thousands of stores have closed. These widespread cuts have made seasonal retail jobs much harder to come by for young adults looking for work.  

Large employers often assume teenagers lack the social and professional skills required on the job, leading employers to turn down many younger candidates.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are the résumé-building traits that are harder to measure on paper. They can most easily be summed up as a person’s emotional intelligence, or the ability to understand and appropriately express one’s emotions. Essentially, soft skills are the basic aspects of workplace etiquette, and employers want employees who can empathetically communicate with supervisors and teams.

Though soft skills can seem elusive at times, many employers consider them to be just as important as knowing how to speak another language or using Microsoft Excel.

In the study Hard Evidence on Soft Skills, the researchers cite soft skills as the indicator of workplace readiness.

“Success in life depends on many traits, not just those measured by IQ, grades and standardized achievements tests,” the authors write. “Personality traits predict and cause outcomes.”

How summer jobs can be beneficial

Though summer jobs sometimes seem like a trivial rite of passage, they ultimately prepare teenagers to enter the working world. Summer jobs help develop soft skills such as time management, confidence and social skills.  

Summer jobs are a great opportunity for students to acquire the soft skills they need in order to be successful after graduation. These skills are crucial, and they allow students to prove that they’re ready to break into the job market.

Research has even shown that soft skills can predict success in life. Communication skills, teamwork, problem solving and conflict resolution are all examples of soft skills that have an important role in the workplace.


Even though it might not be easy to find one, a summer job is definitely worth looking for.

Summer jobs can provide teens with the experiences they need to make themselves qualified candidates in the labor force. However, as opportunities for summer jobs wither away, so do the potential chances for teens to expand their soft skill sets.

Hopefully, the teen unemployment rate can bounce back and give more students opportunities to develop the important skills they need to excel in the workplace.

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Header image: Adobe Stock

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