Summer jobs play role in work force development

Most people of a certain age can recall the summer jobs of their youth. Washing dishes in a restaurant. Waiting on customers in a retail shop. Cleaning up on a construction site. It wasn’t so much the specific skills people learned that were necessarily valuable, but the more general lessons that were so important. Showing up on time. Treating customers with courtesy and respect. The satisfaction that comes from earning a day’s wages for a hard day of work. Remember?

Unfortunately, many high school and college students today don’t enjoy the same opportunities to earn a little money over the summer or experience what can be an essential introduction to the world of work. That’s too bad not only for them, but also employers. Students miss out on the chance to gain what’s often literally hands-on exposure to the workplace environment, to develop good habits and learn how to work with others. Down the road, employers miss out on more qualified job applicants with a much better idea of what it’s like to work and how to succeed. There’s a connection between summer jobs and work force development.

Here in the Grand Valley, the Mesa County Workforce Center, Mesa County Business Education Foundation and other groups are working to promote summer employment and get more students into summer jobs. The Mesa County Workforce Center is among the employment offices statewide that offer services through the Governor’s Summer Job Hunt program, helping students not only find jobs, but also preparing them for success at work. The program also offers an online venue at www.colorado.gov/gsjh for employers to post openings for summer jobs. The Mesa County Business Education Foundation, a group created by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, will host a summer youth options fair that also will help in matching youth with summer jobs. The chamber is involved in other efforts to promote youth employment and work force development, including the Hire Me First program that combines lectures, skills testing and workplace experiences in helping students explore career options and prepare for work.

Then there’s Action Publishing, a Grand Junction company that manufacturers day planners, calendars and other products primarily for academic markets. Action Publishing not only hires a lot of high school and college students for its busy summer production season, but also offers them training in such life skills as collaboration, communication and time management. The effort helps to improve productivity at Action Publishing to be sure. But the benefits extend to other employers for which the students subsequently work.

Not every business can hire youth for summer jobs, especially those with limited resources in terms of both money and time. But more businesses could hire youth for the summer, especially those whose operations become busier during the season and could use the extra help. There’s the short-term immediate benefits associated with the enthusiasm and ability to learn quickly most youth bring to summer jobs. But there’s also the long-term benefit associated with developing future job applicants who know from personal experience what it’s like to work and what’s expected of them in the workplace.

Most people of a certain age remember well the important lessons they learned from summer jobs. There’s no time like the present to teach those same lessons to younger generations.