TEENS: Teens in the Workforce

10 November 2015

With high youth unemployment and a changing job market, looking for work isn’t easy, especially for teenagers applying for their very first job. The process of creating a resume, hunting for a job and going for the dreaded interview can be daunting for teens. However, there are many practical ways that parents and carers can offer support during this time.

Parents and carers can help teens look at job prospects, as well as discuss with them how to approach a potential employer and what to wear to the interview. After landing their first job, teens may also need help with transport to and from work, getting a tax file number or lodging their first tax return, and guidance on budgeting and saving money.

Starting work is an important milestone for young people, whether it’s part-time work while still at school or full-time work after completing their studies. It gives teens the independence they crave, they acquire many new skills and often find themselves in positions of trust in the workplace. When they step up to the challenge and cope well with the new responsibilities, it’s a proud moment for parents and carers.

The resume

Creating a good resume is an important step in the job search process. Parents can help by reviewing the draft resume, suggesting referees and having a discussion with the child about their personal attributes and key skills.

The job market

Young people may need to tap into the hidden job market, which means enquiring about a job that hasn’t been advertised. Parents can help by encouraging teens to network amongst friends and family, and people in the local community. Cold calling is another way to apply for a job, as is handing in the resume to a prospective employer.

The interview

Making a good impression at the job interview is important, thus being well-prepared increases the chances of success. This means researching the company, wearing the right clothes and practising interview questions beforehand. Parents can help kids with interview techniques, as well as advising on what to wear, for example, conservative clothing, minimal make-up and jewellery.

Landing the job

Sunshine Coast student Coco, aged 16, was recently successful in finding part-time work at a discount department store after a few months of handing out her resume to various employers. She eventually filled in a job application at the department store and was selected for a group interview. Her persistence paid off when she landed the job.

The first step in Coco’s search for a job was preparing a draft resume at school and later having it checked by a relative. She advises other teens that if they have a good resume and keep handing it out, they will get a job eventually.

Coco enjoys the freedom that comes from earning her own money, but it’s a big commitment. During the school holidays she gets more hours and may be rostered to work all weekend, as well as during the week. She finds it tough having to go to work when she would normally be socialising with friends.

“You just want to hang out with your friends on a hot day and go to the beach,” she says.

A Year 11 student, Coco manages to fit in her work schedule with getting her schoolwork done, though she has to work four-hour shifts mid-week.

“It can be hard sometimes but I always seem to have enough time to get everything done,” she says.

While Coco has been spending all her earnings so far, she plans to save for Christmas and for a car after that. She is undecided about her future, which could include further study at university or TAFE, or travel. Having retail experience and skills in customer service and cash handling will be a real advantage for Coco in the future.

Career planning

There is a lot of pressure on teens to choose a career direction and program of study. It can take time for young people to find their career pathway and they may change jobs or course of study several times before finding something they are passionate about.

Young people can talk to school guidance and career counsellors, visit job expos or contact a private recruitment firm. The Job Outlook website (joboutlook.gov.au) has a useful career quiz that will help teens identify the type of work they most like doing.

Parents or carers are able to show their support by accompanying teens to job expos, where young people can connect with career advisers, employers, education and training providers. At these events, students and jobseekers can find out about possible career pathways and job opportunities.

The trip to a job expo can be followed up with a chat about short-term and long-term goals. It’s helpful to discuss options, but ultimately young people must be able to make their own decisions and parents need to trust their choices. Parental acceptance helps teens with their sense of belonging and instils the self-confidence they need to find their own unique career path.

Job skills for the future

Youth unemployment is 14% in Queensland, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures released in September 2015. This means the job market is highly competitive and presents a challenge for young people looking for work.

Employers are looking for energetic, innovative communicators who are confident with technology. Core skills include communication, problem solving, planning and organisation, self-management and information technology skills. These employability skills go beyond the technical skills needed to do the job, according to myfuture (myfuture.edu.au), Australia’s free online career information service.

Over the next five years, Australia’s main job growth will occur in the industries of health care and social assistance, construction and professional, scientific and technical services. Reasonable job growth is expected across most other industries, including education and training, transport, retail trade, mining and accommodation and food services. (Source: Parents Talking Career Choices, myfuture.edu.au)

A 2015 report from The Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) states that we need to help equip our young people with the skills and expertise for the jobs of the future, not the past. The future of work for young Australians will be characterised by flexibility and continuous change in how, what and where they will work.

“We need to provide our young people with a different set of skills – to allow them to navigate their way through a diverse employment journey that will include around five career changes and an average of 17 different jobs. We must start thinking differently about how we back young people for the jobs and careers of the future, so they don’t get stuck in the past,” FYA CEO Jan Owen says.

Australia’s changing job market

Almost 40% of Australian jobs could disappear in the next 10 to 15 years due to technology, according to a 2015 report by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA). As well as causing job losses in manufacturing industries, automation is affecting white-collar occupations and service industries.

This is not a new trend, but what’s new is the dramatic speed and magnitude of the changes, which will dramatically reshape the workforce, the CEDA report found.

“The pace of technological advancement in the last 20 years has been unprecedented and that pace is likely to continue for the next 20 years,” CEDA chief executive Professor Stephen Martin says.

People are gradually being replaced by machines in our banks, department stores and supermarkets, and globalisation has meant that some jobs have become redundant and other jobs are being outsourced to developing countries.

The CEDA report says it is easier to identify the jobs that will be lost due by technological change than it is to predict those that will be created in the future. However, job creation is likely to occur in areas where computers and robotics are most challenged in replicating human thought and mobility.

Fast facts about child employment

The Child Employment Act 2006 protects children (under 18 years) from performing work that may be harmful to their health or safety, and ensures that the work does not interfere with their education.

Parents must give their written consent for their school-aged child to have a job. A school-aged child is under 16 years and required to be enrolled at a school.

In Queensland, school-aged children can work a maximum of four hours on a school day and a maximum of 12 hours per week during a school week. In a non-school week, such as school holidays, they can work up to 38 hours per week.

Generally, the minimum age for employment in Queensland is 13 years, but this is lowered to 11 years in certain circumstances, for example, supervised newspaper delivery between 6am and 6pm. There are also certain restrictions for young children who are under school age.

Find practical tools and information to help young people entering the workforce on these websites:
Generation Success: www.employment.gov.au/generation-success-resources-young-workers
Job Guide: www.jobguide.thegoodguides.com.au
Job Outlook: www.joboutlook.gov.au
myfuture: www.myfuture.edu.au
My Skills: www.myskills.gov.au
Work and Career: www.qld.gov.au/youth/work-career

Written by

Sandra Smith

Sandra has been a regular writer for Kids on the Coast magazine since 2009, drawing on her experience as a mother of two and her special interest in parenting issues. She has found the Sunshine Coast an ideal place to raise her children, with its pristine beaches and relaxed lifestyle. Sandra holds a Bachelor of Communications degree and works as a book and web editor. She has also written features for a range of other publications. Sandra loves to travel the world, but there’s no place like home, where she enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading books and working on her novel which is “in progress.” 

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