Wasting no time, 17-year-old Isaiah Tuck, of Brecksville-Broadview Heights, is already making plans for finding work during the summer break from school.
“I am going to work either at a country club or a company installing windows,” Tuck says. “This will be my third summer working. I usually work during the whole summer and stop the day before school starts back.”
Tuck is not alone.
“Most of my friends plan on working this summer,” he says. “Some even hope to keep their jobs through our senior year.”
In a typical summer, an abundance of job opportunities are available for teens to fill during the school break. However, this summer, Tuck and his friends may find that jobs are scarce as some areas where teens typically find work, such as the restaurant industry, may find themselves struggling to stay afloat amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
Michael Saltsman, managing director for the Employment Policies Institute in Washington, D.C., a nonprofit research organization dedicated to studying public policy issues surrounding employment growth, agrees that if we are still facing the coronavirus crisis this summer, employment for teens in the restaurant industry may be a bit bleak.
“Teens would typically find work in the restaurants bussing tables or serving as hosts or hostesses,” Saltsman says. “But many restaurants may be either facing total closure or customer capacity limitations. Restauranteurs may be staffing for takeout/delivery orders only and also wrestling with decreased customer count. You may have a number of owners focusing on keeping their doors open rather than hiring new staff.”
While opportunities for teen employment in the restaurant industry may be slim, Saltsman adds that teens may find work opportunities in the grocery sector to be quite robust.
“In the current environment, my instincts tell me if shoppers continue to act like they have been in March, then grocery stores may find themselves needing extra help,” Saltsman says. “But again, all this may change depending on how long the virus may last.”
Many experts working in the field of teen employment are uncertain about youth employment this summer. Craig Dorn, president and CEO of Youth Opportunities Unlimited (Y.O.U.), a nonprofit workforce development organization based in Cleveland, says predictions about the coming months are all but impossible.
“COVID-19 is changing the landscape,” Dorn says. “Typically, we really have jobs for teens in any industry, from hospitality to nonprofit to healthcare — you name it. We usually have two to three thousand young people every summer. The answer this year for the summer youth employment outlook is I have no idea — due to the COVID-19 crisis, I cannot predict. Though, we are hopeful that by the time this crisis clears, our summer will look like any other summer.”
Dorn says Y.O.U. — which serves teen and young adults living in economically distressed areas in Cuyahoga, Lorain and Lake counties — already has had thousands of young people apply for work and hundreds of work sites lined up. Should the virus clear, he says his organization is ready to place young people in summer jobs.
In the meantime, Tuck is hoping for the best in landing a summer employment opportunity.
Working has played an invaluable role in making him a better communicator, decision maker and time manager, he says. Tuck is confident that should COVID-19 persist through the summer months, teens will find ways to build their skill sets, even if it comes through volunteering to help an elderly neighbor with running errands, grocery shopping or lawn care.
But, he says, the financial loss will hurt.
In a previous version of this article, the last name of Michael Saltsman, managing director for the Employment Policies Institute in Washington, D.C., was misspelled. We apologize for this error.