For teens, few jobs this summer
The economic downturn pushed last month's teen employment rate to its lowest point in 60 years.
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Boston, for example, hired 3,600 of more than 7,000 teenagers who applied for jobs this summer. So, like other large cities, Boston has created a partnership with businesses and nonprofit groups that this summer is hiring an additional 6,000 students, according to data from Meredith Weenick, a spokeswoman for the city.Skip to next paragraph
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Teen unemployment has long-term effects, too, experts say. "If kids don't get jobs, then they don't get their foot in the labor-market door and they don't get job experience, training, and they are more likely to stay in mediocre jobs their whole life," says Professor Holzer.
Some groups are working to reverse the long-term trend, such as the National Career Academy Coalition (NCAS), which creates and supports a national network of career academies. Worcester Vocational Technical High School, with a large minority population, has applied the career-academy model. The four career clusters at Worcester Tech mirror growth sectors in Worcester's economy – health and information technology, for example. Students can choose from among 24 occupations, ranging from cosmetology to automotive technology. With financial support from businesses, culinary art students run a restaurant, finance and marketing students manage a bank, and health and human services students staff a clinic at the school.
Ronny Perez, an incoming senior, is practicing his skills fixing and remodeling the school for $8 an hour. His plan is to go to college and to work in construction. But first, he's going to open a bank account with his first paycheck at the school's bank.
For 11th-grader Josh Barros, carpentry is a backup plan. "My carpentry is my second job, so if college doesn't work out, then I'm gonna try to own my own business and I'm gonna do carpentry," he says.
The results are promising: More than 95 percent of the students are employed upon graduation; 70 percent continue on to college. Last year, 98 percent of the seniors passed the state's standard graduation exam, according to Peter Crafts, the school's director of vocational education.
Those numbers mirror national results. Career academies substantially improved the post-high-school workplace prospects of young men from low-income urban settings, according to a recent study by the Manpower Demonstration Research Corp., a public policy think tank in New York.
Not everyone's a fan. Such programs train low-income and minority students to perform certain jobs while affluent whites get college-prep courses, says Daria Hall at the Education Trust, an advocacy group in Washington.
Ultimately, career academies "cannot be the entire answer," says Holzer. But linked with early childhood education programs and youth-development activities, they can "keep young people engaged in school and linked to work."
[Editor's note: The original version misspelled Daria Hall's name.]