Boston had a good year in the fight against a decline in teen employment

Private businesses and local government hired 173 more teens than last year.

Sam Myers, 20, of Cambridge, looks on as Youth Employment Coordinator Ken Bowers, 35, of Medford hands Tayshia Holmes-Maxwell, 16, a stack of documents as they work at the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program Office in Cambridge.
Sam Myers, 20, of Cambridge, looks on as Youth Employment Coordinator Ken Bowers, 35, of Medford hands Tayshia Holmes-Maxwell, 16, a stack of documents as they work at the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program Office in Cambridge. –Getty/The Boston Globe

Things are looking a little brighter for local teenagers who’ve struggled to find summer employment in recent years, according to Mayor Marty Walsh.

At this morning’s Chamber of Commerce speech, Mayor Walsh announced that Boston’s summer jobs program broke its goal for employed teenagers this year, with private businesses and government hiring over 10,360 young people – 173 more than last year.

“I want to thank every single employer who hired a teen, especially the 40 new employers we added to the rolls,’’ Mayor Walsh said. “And I ask for your help in recruiting more for next year. These investments will pay huge dividends in the long run—for those young people, for our communities, and for our workforce.’’

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Thousands of Boston public high school students involved in the program were placed in a wide range of industries including life science, technology, hospitality, healthcare, legal, and retail environments. Some of the jobs were sponsored by the state, while other teens were paid directly by their private employers, like Walgreens or Fenway Park.

Though the Mayor’s Summer Jobs Program has been around for 30 years, there’s been increasing pressure to find a solution for teenage unemployment in Boston, as the number of employed 16 to 19-year-olds fell from 54.3 percent in 1999 to 31.2 percent in 2014.

The bleak numbers reflected a national trend. Last summer, less than a third of American teens held summer jobs. Researchers from the Pew Research Center have speculated the decline is due to a culmination of factors: fewer available low-skill, entry-level jobs, more schools restarting before Labor Day, more students taking unpaid internships, and more teens doing unpaid community service work as part of their graduation requirements.

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Careers most likely to add jobs by 2019:

Mayor Walsh wants to reverse the trend, as he’s repeatedly said the city’s young people are the key to Boston’s economic success in the future. Teens with employment experience also typically perform better in the classroom, he’s said.

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“Summer jobs are critical for the development and success of teenagers,’’ the Mayor’s Summer Jobs Program website states. “Jobs teach students the habits of paid work, attendance and punctuality, speaking and listening, accepting direction and criticism, and problem solving and taking initiative.’’

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