June 22, 2010

Getting the Kids to Work

Justin Katz

The Providence Journal's John Kostrzewa and the public officials on whom he reports miss some critical dynamics in their discussion of the problem of teen unemployment in Rhode Island:

More and more teenagers in Rhode Island can't find work because the recession has shrunk the number of job openings. The jobs that are available and that young people used to fill are being taken by seniors forced back into the labor market or out-of-work adults who can't find anything else.

Not to mention the factors of illegal immigrants and other unskilled labor attracted by our progressive welfare and tax policies. A more fundamental thought derives from this description of the problem:

When young people don't get jobs and are idle, they don't learn valuable behavioral traits and skills such as showing up on time, respect for supervisors, teamwork and the value of their labor.

Providence Mayor David Cicilline, Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, and others see the solution as more government programs, including education and training, but that's suspiciously helpful to bureaucrats and public-sector labor unions. The reality is that, as its policies across the board prove, Rhode Island is not designed for successful, upwardly mobile lives. Our state punishes success and rewards conformity and going along to get along. That dynamic leads to policies that restrict job growth and — in whom it attracts and what it encourages — floods out the opportunity to follow a clear course of opportunity from menial work to a successful career.

That's more of a cultural issue than an economic one, but if there's any hope to change it, it will come with the economic decision to encourage business activity — really encourage it, not by making forms easier to fill out, but my making business easier to conduct.

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I'm still seeing "We're Hiring" signs at the malls and fast food places. I'm not sure that it'd be too hard for a teenager or a home-for-the-summer college kid to get a job right now.

Posted by: Patrick at June 22, 2010 11:53 AM

Correct me if I am wrong, but don't a whole bunch of Europeans and Russians get imported to do summer jobs in RI...those the locals obviously don't want or don't take?

There are plenty of jobs around....that's for sure.

Posted by: Stuart at June 22, 2010 12:00 PM

Dunkin Donuts is hiring. I can give at least 3 hiring restaurant locations for any teenagers that are actually interested. I worked harder and more humiliating jobs while in college, although they didn't make me wear the funny hats.

I know for a fact that a number of RI construction workers are on welfare/unemployment while working under the table. But that can't be right because progressives tell us that welfare is supposedly impossible to scam now.

Posted by: Dan at June 22, 2010 12:59 PM

Welfare might be hard to scam, but unemployment is not - mostly what that takes is a collaboration between the employer and the employee - both of whom can benefit in many cases.

It's just another example of the impossibility of having a fair system is the PEOPLE, especially those of responsibility (employers) are unethical.

Posted by: Stuart at June 22, 2010 1:38 PM

I'm agreeing with Dan. I see this more now with the college kids coming through. When I was in college, I volunteered/interned with anyone in my field to help me learn more and get to where I wanted to be. I worked my way through grad school at Pizza Hut. It's not a coincidence that I worked at a food establishment, when I was a mostly starving college student.

I've spoken with other younger college kids who ask my advice on how to move up in the field, learn more and get to where I got. I tell them to intern, work for free and just do anything to be around the field that they want to work in. They look at me like I have 6 heads. Then they wonder why they don't have a job? Or they ask what they'll do for money. Heck, intern in your field and work at Dunkin Donuts. No, it's not an easy route, but when you're in your late teens or early 20s, you sure can handle the work and the hours. And they'll look back on it later like it was worth it. I sure do.

Posted by: Patrick at June 22, 2010 2:04 PM

"It's not a coincidence that I worked at a food establishment, when I was a mostly starving college student."

From personal experience, I would highly recommend working at a place like Quiznos Subs while in college. It's a relatively easy, clean job, and the amount of free food and drinks I got out of it was unbelievable. It was like earning a bonus $20 every single day. I'd bring home extra subs, soups, salads etc. for my friends and family all of the time too.

Posted by: Dan at June 22, 2010 2:34 PM

There is nothing like restaurant work when you're a kid. Some of my best memories of my teen years are those spent washing dishes at Bassett's Restaurant in Warwick. I also made some of the best friends I've ever had during that time.

Of course, I worked until midnight during the school week, and after 1 on the weekends; something I doubt the overprotective parents of today would allow.

Posted by: michael at June 22, 2010 2:52 PM

I worked for about $1.50 an hour - no tips - as a dishwasher at a macrobiotic restaurant. I met some amazing people and learned a lot about healthy cooking.
Although it did not help me much financially, it turned out to influence my entire life and health afterwards.
I did virtually any work which was available....but cannot handle assembly line stuff. I would rather dig ditches.
Bottom line was that my work experience put me years ahead of most of my peers in terms of both money and climbing the ladders of success.

Posted by: Stuart at June 22, 2010 3:03 PM

One summer while I was in HS, my father had a friend who ran an assembly line business assembling furniture. I was the only worker there that spoke fluent English. At the end of the summer, my father then explained to me, "Do well in school, unless you want to do that job for the rest of your life." I chose the former.

Posted by: Patrick at June 22, 2010 3:11 PM

The only policy we need is parents insisting their kids work. We all know the benefits of employment, no need to elaborate. Besides the obvious, that sickening comment I often hear, "jobs Americans wont do" will finally be put to rest. Adult illegal immigrants are filling in for our kids in a lot of kitchen, landscaping and service jobs. Those are jobs that our kids WILL do, if the need is there. If we keep giving them everything they won't look for work.

Minimum wage doesn't pay for much. It does give the kids some spending money. The push for a living wage for entry level work is absurd. People can't expect to enter the workforce and be paid enough to support a family. We used to call it paying your dues.

Posted by: michael at June 22, 2010 8:23 PM

"We used to call it paying your dues."

I thought that's what the unions still call it.

Posted by: Patrick at June 22, 2010 9:21 PM

Throw the slow curve and they hit it out of the park every time.

Posted by: michael at June 22, 2010 10:40 PM

Stu-I loaded freight cars and put corpses in the fridge for $1.50 an hour.
At least we share similar experiences-we just come to very different conclusions.

Posted by: joe bernstein at June 23, 2010 1:25 PM
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