Idaho had one of the highest teen unemployment rates in the nation last year. Nearly 30 percent of 16- to 19-year-old Idahoans were unemployed, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This week, StateImpact is exploring that rate. After all, unemployed teens aren’t just college-bound high school students who are finding it harder to line up summer lifeguarding jobs. Teenagers, in many cases, need to work.
Last week, I began reaching out to local school counselors. Eventually, I connected with Court Hanson, a college and career counselor at Boise High School. “I was excited to hear your call and your question,” he told me. “I’ve been pretty concerned, personally, for the last several years that people come into my office daily and ask, ‘Where can I find a job?'”
Hanson says his office used to have a three-ring binder full of after-school and weekend job openings, but now those opportunities have dried up. That worries him.
As students get close to turning 18, he says, the need for a job can become urgent. “I know several students who, when they hit that magic number, they’re supposed to move out and start life on their own,” he said. “That’s a pretty scary thing if they don’t have the ability to get a job. What are they going to do? Where do they turn?”
Even for students who aren’t in that tough spot, Hanson says, the lack of work opportunities may create long-term problems. “Students are missing out on what I think a lot of businesses would call the ‘soft skills,'” he said. “Where are they going to learn that? In college? I think we’ll have kids that go all the way through college that haven’t had a job.”
I’ll be meeting with teens this week to hear about their experiences in the job market, so keep reading. And if this is an issue that directly affects you, reach out and tell us how.