The summer job was once a childhood rite of passage, and one that empowered the growth and personal development of youngsters throughout the United States. This is a quickly diminishing trend, however, with seven out of 10 youngsters expected to remain unemployed throughout the summer months of 2012. This is the continuation of a sharp and unrelenting decline in youth employment levels across the nation, which has left the jobless rate among the 16 to 19-year-old demographic at its highest rate since World War II. If this is not disturbing enough, a projection by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that teen employment may struggle to return to pre-recession levels at any point in the foreseeable future.
A Cultural Shift or a Depressed Job Market?
While the drop in teen employment remains steeper than within any other demographic, the situation is scarcely any better for the current generation of young adults between 18 and 29. This social group is currently experiencing an unemployment rate of 12.4%, while balancing an average debt of $45,000 per individual. So, while the rising level of teen unemployment may well be partially attributed to a cultural shift and the growing popularity of summer school and learning camps, it is clear that traditional working opportunities are limited for students and graduates who are looking to take their first steps in the world of work.
While the fluctuating nature of employment in the current economy is certainly impacting job creation throughout the U.S., this does not mean that students and young adults cannot adapt and seek out innovative ways of earning and managing their money in 2012. With just 69,000 jobs added to the economy during May, there is a pressing need for individuals who are on the fringes of the employment market to alter their perception of work in a way that suits the prevailing macro environment. This starts with education, and a willingness to learn the key skills that are required to thrive in such a changeable and unpredictable economy.
Financial Education and Innovation
The first thing that students, in particular, must do is address the fundamental principles of financial success, and acquiring money management skills enables them to make the most of any wealth that they are able to accrue. Contemporary students are fortunate that many regional education bodies are beginning to realize this, and subsequently implementing programs to aid financial literacy and awareness. Indiana University is one institution to lead the way in this field, as it aspires to assist students in managing college debts and teaches money management skills that can be used in later life.
Another factor for students to bear in mind is the changing nature of entrepreneurship, which has empowered a generation of "accidental entrepreneurs" who have developed startup ventures out of circumstance rather than a deep rooted desire to be their own boss. According to a study commissioned by Forrester Consulting, this is a direct consequence of the Great Recession in 2008, where millions of people were forced to evaluate new ways of making money and supplementing diminished household incomes. This has made entrepreneurship a viable option for students in 2012, as their agile minds and educated nature allows them to capitalize on increasingly accessible technology and minimal cost startup ventures.
Innovative Business Ideas for Students
For students rendered idle this summer, there are a number of business models and concepts that could suit their requirements. An e-commerce operation is one, as not only does this require minimal start-up investment but it can also be run by a single individual without requiring the creation of a complex or difficult to manage infrastructure. The simplistic and flexible nature of ecommerce and the fast transaction processes involved also allow the venture to be continued on a part-time basis or ended abruptly as required, without causing a significant disruption to an individual's studies.
Similarly, students can focus on areas of interest and industries where they would like to work and replicate a simple service to earn income during the summer months. For example, those who prefer outdoor activity and have a passion for landscaping may find it profitable to approach residents in their local area and offer gardening or general yard services in exchange for a fixed fee. This ensures that students can take control of their own destiny rather than rely on a depressed job market, without compromising on their interests or sacrificing experience that could benefit a career they would like to pursue once they have graduated.
The Bottom Line
While the suggestion that students and young adults in the U.S. are clearly suffering from a lack of traditional employment opportunities, this does not mean that they are unable to make money and acquire wealth in the current economy. The key to thriving in such an unpredictable economy is flexibility, and the way in which youngsters react to changeable market factors and develop their skill sets accordingly. With a growing number of education bodies also beginning to implement financial learning programs and encouraging students to consider money management techniques, youngsters can benefit further by learning how to make the most from their wealth.
More From Investopedia