Academic journal article Human Ecology Forum

Workplaces Should Be Approved to Employ Teens

Academic journal article Human Ecology Forum

Workplaces Should Be Approved to Employ Teens

Article excerpt

A Cornell University youth and work expert is calling for employers of teenagers to obtain "seals of approval" before adolescents can work for them.

Parents should be as concerned about where their teenagers work as they are about their schools, because youth employment can have either profoundly positive or seriously harmful effects on adolescents, says Stephen Hamilton, professor of human development and co-director of the Cornell Youth and Work Program, in "Protecting Youth at Work," a report issued by the National Research Council (NRC) and the Institute of Medicine.

Hamilton and his colleagues on the report committee call for the U.S. Department of Labor to convene "a prestigious group representing all affected parties to develop criteria for approved workplaces for youth, administered at local levels. These criteria would be for workplaces connected with school-related and publicly supported job programs, such as the School-to-Work Opportunities Act or the Job Training Partnership Act. Other employers would be encouraged to seek the "seal of approval" on a voluntary basis.

Working can be dangerous, insists Hamilton. "Tens of thousands of young people suffer from serious work-related injuries each year, with more than 70 dying each year," he says. "Also, working too much or in inappropriate places can increase the likelihood that an adolescent will engage in problem behaviors and substance abuse and drop out of school sooner than others."

He adds: "Employers should show not only that youth are working in a healthy and safe environment but also that they are gaining learning opportunities as well as work experience." Only such workplaces would be deemed "commendable" and eligible to employ young people in school-related programs.

Employers who participated voluntarily would be able to publicize their eligibility, says Hamilton, which would be reassuring to parents. At the very minimum, workplaces that offer internships, apprenticeships, and other publicly supported education and training should meet certain federal standards, he says. …

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