Youth Employment: Encouraging Career Exploration

Jobs today are not like they were a few generations ago. Many Hoosier youth are struggling to find employers who will hire young people, and others find it difficult to develop personal and professional skills needed to acquire and maintain employment.

Molly Hansen, a Jobs for America’s Graduates specialist working at Decatur Central High School, said that adults can be supporters and motivators for youth who are looking for jobs.

“Youth need to feel empowered by parents and teachers to pursue a job,” said Hansen. “As youth supporters we need to help youth find jobs that can fit into their lives and benefit them on multiple levels, not just as something to make some easy money. We need to help youth understand the long-term benefits of obtaining a job.”

The JAG program encourages career exploration and focuses on helping students graduate high school and begin their adult lives on positive, productive paths by teaching them personal, life and employability skills that will “make them the most sought-after graduates for the world of work.”

Hansen works with teens to create resumes, practice interviews and research career opportunities. She also emphasizes professional and personal skills that will help youth find and maintain quality jobs.

“Communication skills are a key,” said Hansen. “Students must be able to communicate with family, schools and their employers to keep track of their schedules. Grit is another key skill students should utilize. I have found that many of my students do a fantastic job of finding a part-time job but struggle to keep the job once they have it. Students need to work on developing professional skills that will help them maintain long-term work. Students also need to demonstrate respect and a willingness to learn new work skills and complete the task at hand.”

Janet Boston is the executive director of Indiana INTERNnet, an organization that encourages employers, schools and students to offer and accept internships. She noted that students should be aware of “timeliness and appropriate behaviors, particularly with technology” and that they “really need to hone what we’re calling the soft skills, particularly written and oral communication.”

Furthermore, Boston mentioned that “employers tell us [that youth] really need to enhance their critical thinking skills…it’s not just absorbing information, but turning that information into meaningful projects.”

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