Teacher Tim Riché, who among other tasks is the work experience coordinator for Madera Unified School District, told the Kiwanis Club of Madera on Thursday that teens looking for jobs these days face a thorny problem.
“They are competing with 25-year-olds for jobs,” he said. Of course, the 25-year-olds are competing with 30-year-olds, and so forth. It’s tough out there.
I got my first job, an afterschool gig sweeping the floor of a weekly newspaper, at the age of 14. When my family moved to another town, I upgraded my after-school status to apprentice printer, ad salesman and writer of a weather column for the weekly newspaper in our new town. Those jobs helped me buy my first car, buy clothes, buy school supplies and save money for college.
I wasn’t alone in having an after-school job. My friends sacked groceries, worked in service stations pumping gas and wiping windshields, worked on farms, swept up at stores and restaurants after closing times and delivered newspapers.
I made 75 cents an hour. Some of my friends made as much as $1.25 an hour. One of my friends, who raised pigs on his father’s farm, made a lot of money. We all thought of him as rich.
Today, most of those work opportunities would not be possible — certainly not at age 14. One must be 16 even to apply for work. Jobs once held by young people are very often filled by adults who find the world of work unkindly crowded even for those with education, skills and experience.
The skills I learned while working as a teenager enabled me to put myself through college and created in me a work ethic which I still have.
It’s a shame many young people who would like those experiences will never get them because of the way our economic lives have changed, not always for the better.