The Importance of Summer Jobs

Editorial

Winter hung in for so long, we thought spring might never arrive. But it has.

Indeed, the first of the college commencements were last weekend (it wasn’t so long ago that students didn’t gown up until after or just before Memorial Day, but that’s another story), and there are several more this weekend.

Meanwhile, the high-school graduation ceremonies are only a few weeks away. These occasions serve as reminders that soon, if not already, thousands of young people will be looking for summer jobs.

In what has become an almost annual plea, we strongly encourage area companies large and small to help them in their quest.

Summer jobs are important not only to young people and their families, but for the entire region, and for a number of reasons, some of which actually fall into the category of economic development.

But we’ll get to that in a minute. First, the more obvious benefits.

Yes, summer jobs put money in the pockets of young people, something that’s especially important as the costs of attending college rise and more and more families struggle to meet those costs. But there are many benefits beyond the paycheck.

As those of us who have been there know, first jobs — and second jobs and third jobs — are important learning experiences, whether they take place at Mercy Medical Center, MassMutual, Friendly’s, Six Flags, a vegetable farm in Hadley, the corner pizza parlor, or one of the Balise company’s new car washes. Each and every job is a learning experience.

Those who hold those jobs learn about the responsibility of coming to work every day and working as a part of a team to deliver products and services. And about being on time and providing solid customer service.

Meanwhile, they’re also developing skills and learning about a particular field and the career opportunities that lie within it.

Which brings us to that economic-development component of this discussion and, more specifically, the workforce-development component.

If you read BusinessWest regularly, and thoroughly, you can probably recall many occasions when, in the course of tracing their career path, the subject in question will talk about how a summer job or internship altered their trajectory and thus altered their life.

You hear it from doctors and nurses, bankers and accountants, machine-shop owners, and even business writers. A summer job opened their eyes — to a great company, to opportunities, and to a career.

It doesn’t happen all the time, certainly, but it happens enough.

When you look at all the reasons why companies should work hard to create a summer job or two (or 10 if they can manage it) — from that exposure to their company to having some young people to bounce ideas off and gain input from, to simply getting some much-needed work done — it’s clear that they can and must make the effort.

It’s easy to say they don’t have the budget or that summer help is too much trouble or that it’s just too hard to get good help.

We encourage companies not to do what’s easy, but instead do what’s right — for them, the young people they’ll hire, and the region as a whole.

Spring is here, and that means it’s time to think about creating summer jobs.

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