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“Coming of Age” in AR – Get a Job, and That's Not So Easy

PHOTO: "YOUTH AND WORK: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity," is at
PHOTO: "YOUTH AND WORK: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity," is at
December 6, 2012

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - The first job a person holds turns out to be important for his or her future career. A new KIDS COUNT report finds that early work experiences are tied to the ability of young people to be stable in the workforce later. At the same time, it says, the number of jobs available for teens and young adults has been shrinking. Arkansas youth employment is a little better than the national numbers, but overall, lower than it was 10 years ago.

While most people can remember what their first job was, KIDS COUNT national director Laura Speer says folks forget the details they learned on that job.

"It's about learning that you have to show up to work on time, how to work with a boss, how to get along with your coworkers, how to solve problems without your parents there to do it for you."

The report also finds that the number of teens and young adults not working and not in school has been rising - youth described as "disconnected." Speer says recommendations for reconnecting young people to education and careers are many, and include spurring businesses to invest in the future workforce.

Why are jobs disappearing? Speer says the recession is one reason, but another is that the kinds of "first jobs" available in the past are less readily available today.

"The labor market now places a much higher value on high skills, and that has left out a lot of young people. It has also meant that older people are competing with the younger people to get those jobs."

Thirty-three percent of Arkansas teens who want a job have one, and the same is true for 65 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds. Nationally, the teen employment rate is much lower.

The full report, "YOUTH AND WORK: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity," is available at

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - AR