Job market challenging for area teens

Posted 6/6/12

When 16-year-old Henry Griffin III applies for a job, he says it’s the same old drill. “You apply for the job, and then you don’t get …

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Job market challenging for area teens


When 16-year-old Henry Griffin III applies for a job, he says it’s the same old drill.

“You apply for the job, and then you don’t get called,” he said. “Well, at least that’s how it works for me.”

And according to numbers recently released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, that’s how it seems to work for a lot of young people hitting the summer job market.

Nikesha Holliday, youth program supervisor for Arapahoe/Douglas Works!, said teen unemployment in Colorado, across all races, and not including those incarcerated, is 33.7 percent for youths between the ages of 16 and 19.

Although that number is actually down from last year’s rate of 34.2 percent, Holliday seems to think the high numbers are most likely associated with applicants who lack education and work “under-the-table” jobs.

“Many of those who come to us don’t have the necessary education to obtain a job,” said Holliday. “They either don’t have a high school diploma or unfortunately have dropped out of school entirely.”

Others work cash-only jobs such as babysitting, dog walking and landscaping, essentially doing anything to get by.

Although the jobs outlook has improved slightly for summer 2012, a report from the Employment Policies Institute released in April says teens searching for summer employment are still faced with more competition than previous generations.

“There are a lot of adults that have been laid off,” said Holliday. “And yes, they are applying for those jobs that would normally be considered entry-level jobs for youths, and that’s tough.”

But even in an employer’s market, Holliday suggested there’s hope, even for the terminally frustrated.

First, there are more new jobs opening up, she said, “and that’s a good sign.”

Although there are still far more applicants that jobs available, Holliday said the key is not to give up.

“I tell every youth, ages 14 to 24, the first thing they need to do is to get into a workforce center,” she said. “I think a lot of people don’t realize our services are free, and we’re the experts that can help make them more marketable. We can help with the frustration. … I think a lot of that comes from just not knowing how to fill out an application or prepare a resume.”

And then network.

“A lot of young people don’t know how to network, and that’s something we can help them with,” said Holliday. “Networking with peers, networking with business professions, networking with parents, even parents networking with parents can help you learn about the opportunities that are out there.”

At a recent A/D Works! hiring fair, Holliday said they were able to place 60 of the 219 individuals who attended in suitable jobs.

As for Griffin, who said he’s applied for multiple jobs in retail and food service, he remains hopeful.

“I have to be hopeful,” he sighed. “I really don’t have a choice.”


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