Magazine article Techniques

Get to WORK: The Importance of Gradual Exposure to the World of Work during Adolescence

Magazine article Techniques

Get to WORK: The Importance of Gradual Exposure to the World of Work during Adolescence

Article excerpt

When I reflect back on my youth I cannot help but reminisce about the central role work played. I was raised to be industrious, complimented when I did excellent work. 1 can vividly remember being a "gofer"--going for this and going for that, helping people, being told to observe workers on the job and to be of use--all with the aim of learning and developing practical skills.

When 1 reflect back on my professional career as a high school counselor I recall the way participation in the world of work has helped transform students' lives. Some mature and exhibit a newfound confidence from employment. Through work, students find their calling and others begin to better value and take ownership of their education. I have witnessed some teens transformed by learning valuable employability skills; for example, one former student worked his way up from an entry-level position he started in high school to become the grocery store manager.

These cases seem few and far between. Why aren't more adolescents engaging in work in this post-modern era? Is delayed exposure to the world of work detrimental, especially in a rapidly changing, global and highly technical marketplace? How can we better prepare students for the transition from school to the world of work?

Background

Work is omnipresent and highly influential, impacting everyone, defining individuals, cities and nation states. "Work stands at the center of modern life" (Gardner, 1997, p. 127), and a job and the work therein can constitute 40 percent of one's waking life (Gardner, Csikszentmi-halyi, & Damon, 2001). Though economic principles influence why the majority of individuals engage in work, people take social, political and psychological benefit, as work affords many with purpose, identity and meaning. Doing good work "feels good" (Gardner, et al., 2001, p.5), and can instill a sense of self-worth and self-fulfillment (Niles & Harris-Bowlsbey, 2005). Importantly, work is something to be taught and learned, something one prepares for.

Adolescents encounter multiple challenges when faced with the transition from school to the world of work. Globalization, job redesign and new ultra-high technology have changed the nature of work (Gordon, 2010; Savickas, 2005). According to Thompson (2017), teens are not as active as they once were in the workforce for several reasons. Adolescents face increased competition for the work teenagers used to do. Many adult workers have decided to remain in the workforce longer. There has been a sharp decline in federally funded summer jobs for teens. Some bosses are unwilling to pay inexperienced workers minimum wage. A new social norm encourages youth to take summer classes and unpaid internships. That being said, students should be encouraged to take advantage of opportunities that exist to better prepare themselves for entry into the workforce.

Work Experience Opportunities

Workforce counseling actively promotes various forms of work experience (Pre-ble, 2017). Community service presents valuable opportunity and may be required for graduation. Students should consider community service or volunteer work with different nonprofit organizations including homeless shelters, hospitals, the Boys and Girls Club and Habitat for Humanity; or they might assist with a local environmental clean-up or habitat restoration effort. This type of activity allows students to develop social responsibility, network, apply academic learning to human needs, and offers exposure to new environments, including work. In November 2017,1 performed community service with members from the North Salinas High School Japanese Honor Society at Dorothy's Kitchen, which serves meals to a sizable homeless population in Salinas, California. While it was interesting to identify those who self-selected for the experience, it was also eye-opening and refreshing to watch some students take initiative and demonstrate non-academic work ethic outside of the school environment. …

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