Teens are too busy preparing for college instead of working

by Grace

Lifeguard shortage leaves many pools, beaches unprotected

The shortage — which is being felt in cities including Columbus, Ohio; Del Rio, Texas; Tulsa; and Minneapolis — comes, in part, because many high school students spend their summers taking classes or engaging in enrichment activities to prepare for college instead of working, according to Harry Holzer, professor of public policy at Georgetown University.

Unemployment numbers released in May by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that one in four teenagers is actively seeking employment but is unable to get hired. Holzer said many of the kids who are looking for jobs are from low- or middle-income families and do not have the extra cash to spend for certification, so they do not apply for lifeguard positions.

While lifeguards are typically paid more than minimum wage, it costs about $350 to become certified as a lifeguard by the American Red Cross.  This is a case where it takes money to make money.  Perhaps scholarship benefactors willing to fund lifeguard certification courses could produce significant payoffs in the employment situation for at least a few deserving teens.

A local pool was still seeking lifeguards as recently as two weeks ago, well after the Memorial Day start of their season.  From what I can tell, most other local summer recreation jobs get filled as early as March.  While I know at least one teen who is still looking for a summer job, many local students spend their summers on enrichment activities along with family vacations and other entertaining pursuits.  (I count hanging around the local Dunkin’ Donuts as an entertaining pursuit.)

Related:  Number of employed high schoolers at lowest level in more than 20 years


8 Comments to “Teens are too busy preparing for college instead of working”

  1. When I was a kid, pools paid for training their life guards. Now it seems like they expect their employees to train themselves on their own time and money. No wonder they can’t find workers! (The problem is pervasive throughout American businesses—a severe reluctance to do any on-the-job training.)


  2. Bonnie – I’m surprised to hear about your nanny’s challenge in finding a summer camp counselor job, but maybe those jobs are more desired than I thought. Maybe she applied too late?


  3. gasstation – Maybe that trend will reverse as the economy improves.

    “… spending on employee development rose 9.5 percent to an average of $800 per learner in 2011, as organizations moved to combat the skills gap in the labor market….

    The research found U.S. training organizations continuing on the road to recovery, following double-digit spending cuts in 2008 and 2009 with a slight uptick of 2 percent in 2010. The research also found that large business investment in social learning tools in 2011 nearly doubled to $40,000 on average. ”



  4. My kids are doing Red Cross swim classes again this summer and I have been pointing out to my daughter that if she does all the courses, she could eventually work as a life guard, or maybe even a swim instructor. She loves the water, so it might be a very good fit. (It was water safety day today and she had a blast pretending to be a drowning victim.) The Red Cross also offers babysitting course for kids 11-15, I believe.

    I wonder if there isn’t a socioeconomic Catch-22, where well-off kids get more pool time and lessons and are stronger swimmers but don’t have time or inclination to work, while poorer kids might want very much to life guard but haven’t had the pool time and lessons that would make them strong swimmers.


  5. Yes, a socioeconomic Catch-22. Another type of achievement gap:

    According to USA Swimming, 70% of African-American children cannot swim, compared with nearly 60% for Hispanic children and 42% for white children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African-American children between the ages of 5 and 14 are three times more likely to drown than white children in the same age range.


  6. While it might make a difference to increase that to $1,600 per learner or even more, the more important thing would be to improve the quality of training. I personally have had a mix of good and bad employer training, and have also probably been responsible for a mix since that was one of my responsibilities in previous employment.

    I remember the best company training session I ever had was spending a week in the Bahamas to learn about carbonate (oil-producing) environments. Actually, it WAS very educational, but today it could probably be mostly accomplished by computer simulation for a much lower cost. (I wonder if geologists have cut down on the number of field trips because of technological innovations?)


  7. I just read about this new unfunded mandate for NY public schools.

    The Dignity for All Students Act took effect July 1 and requires schools to develop anti-bullying policies and report incidents of bullying to the state Education Department….

    School employees are to receive training on cyberbullying, and the law puts the onus on schools to report and initially investigate complaints.


    I’m pretty sure I don’t think schools should be using precious resources for this training, most of which will probably be “claptrap”. Given the harsh reality of our present economics, this probably means something else will have to be cut to pay for this.


  8. From what I read and hear, public schools are notorious for useless “teacher development” training classes.


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