Teen Employment: Everybody Wins

Teen Employment: Everybody Wins https://wahospitality.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/ProStartStudents.jpg

By Stephanie Davenport

The hospitality industry plays a key role in our state’s employment health. One out of 33 people in Washington is employed in a restaurant, making our industry the main pipeline to enter the workforce. Restaurants in the quick service sector play a particularly important role when it comes to jobs.

Why? Teen employment.

In our current political atmosphere, quick-service counter jobs are often vilified for their wage offerings. However, these entry-level jobs are a cornerstone for Americans entering the workforce. For every year a person works in his or her teenage years, income rises by 14 to 16 percent in their twenties. A study, lauded by the White House, shows that people who are unemployed between the ages of 16 and 24 earn $400,000 less throughout their careers than those who do not.

When a young person struggles to get that first job, it can have a lasting negative impact not just for that individual, but for the economy as a whole.

Because of this significant income gap, multiple levels of government are now encouraging teen employment. President Barack Obama’s 2017 budget proposed nearly $6 billion in new funding to help young people get their first job; and his administration worked with the Department of Labor on a $20 million grant competition. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray started a program called Youth Employment Initiative with the goal of streamlining the process of matching employers and youth.

Despite all these great reasons to hire teens, teen employment in the Washington restaurant industry has dropped 42 percent in the last decade.

This is because rising wages makes it hard for owners to hire people without experience. This is one of the reasons it is critical for minimum wage policies to have a training wage element. Restaurateurs need support in hiring first-time workers, and the WRA and WLA continue to advocate for teens whenever minimum wage policies are presented, at both the state and local levels.

We’re also helping make teens an even better good choice for businesses looking for part-time employees. Each year, our ProStart program prepares 800 students from 34 schools across Washington to work in and manage a restaurant. These trained teen workers have a passion for our industry, and are a smart investment. Call the Association at 360.956.7279 if you would like to connect with a ProStart student or support this important training program.

Washington restaurants continue to employ more than 227,000 people in our state alone. Though the impacts of teen unemployment are a far-reaching problem, In a National Restaurant Association survey of 5,100 current and former employees, nine out of 10 managers, supervisors, and chefs say their first job at a restaurant was entry-level. The hospitality industry cares about its employees and lifting people up. We need to work harder than ever to support first-time jobs and the quick-service eateries that support them.

(Source: Washington Hospitality Magazine, September 2016)