, Salem, MA


July 11, 2012

Teens for hire

Youths competing with college students, underemployed adults for jobs this summer


Last year, 447 teens found employment through FirstJobs, about 34 percent of the 1,310 who applied. The majority, 322, came from Lynn; 86 were from Salem. 

A survey of the program found that the average age of applicants was slowly increasing, from 16.6 years of age in 2006 to 17.5 in 2011. Just 1.8 percent of those hired for summer jobs last year were 14-year-olds.

For those who can’t find summer jobs, internships can provide a foot in the door when seeking paid work in future years.

That’s the route that 16-year-old Mike Powers of Danvers took when he volunteered to be an unpaid intern at a town park program called SNAKE (Science and Nature Adventures for Kids at Endicott Park).

He had applied for three jobs — at a home furnishings store, a clothing store and a local market — but found he was competing with college students. “One of them said they were looking for 18-year-olds,” Powers said, “and the other two, there were mostly older kids around, so I kind of had the feeling they weren’t going to take someone as young as me.” 

“While they are not paid,” said Tim Creamer, the SNAKE program’s director, said of the interns, “they are starting to get more responsibilities, they are being trained on the different aspects of the programs, different types of activities, so instead of participating in the activities, they are getting prepared to actually direct them.”

Cities and towns have historically been a refuge of teenage workers, but even those jobs are scarce this summer.

The only summer job a 16-year-old can have in the city of Salem is at the Forest River Pool as a certified lifeguard, said Patrick Burke, the seasonal director of the pool. 

“This is the only city job that allows 16-, 17-year-olds,” said Burke, who is a full-time Salem firefighter. “It’s great. It gives them a great opportunity to work down here at the pool, and outside, and be part of the city.”

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