Before the summer slips away, I want to talk about summer jobs. If you are older, you can probably remember the work experience you received by working various summer jobs. If you are a bit younger, you may not have had that same experience of working a number of different summer jobs but probably had at least one summer job. If you are a teenager, you may never have had a summer job. That’s a problem.
Working a summer job while you are young is a great learning experience. You learn some skills. You learn a little bit about certain jobs and get a better understanding of what you might want to do as a career. On a summer job, you learn the importance of being punctual, being responsible, and having a good work ethic. You also learn the value of money and how to manage money.
I thought about all of this when I read a piece by Jonah Goldberg on “How to Kill the Summer Job.” It is easy to kill summer jobs for young people. Just continue to raise the minimum wage. That increase makes it harder for employers to justify having an untrained teenager work in the business or factory. They are taking a risk by hiring someone with no work experience. And often the work the teenager performs does not provide enough initial benefit to the manager of the business to justify paying them an ever-increasing minimum wage.
More and more young people are growing up without work experience. Some augment it by doing an unpaid internship. Most lose that important experience of a summer job.
The argument for raising the minimum wage is to provide a “living wage” for people with few job skills. Jonah Goldberg points out that there are other ways to subsidize low-skilled workers. One option might be to expand the earned income credit. That’s a topic for a future Viewpoint.
My point is that we are hurting an entire generation of young people who are growing up without having the learning experience of a summer job. That is not a positive trend. We need to reverse it.