In Nashville, we're seeing fewer and fewer teens working during the summer months and after school. In response, Mayor Megan Barry helped initiate and launch an online portal, Opportunity NOW, to help young adults find employment and learn important soft-skills.
But are students signing up? Program directors said the results are mixed.
"Sometimes though, they don't understand what those next steps are going to look like. We've had young people who don't respond to their emails and don't respond to their phone calls," said Ellen Zinkiewicz, the Youth Services Director at Opportunity NOW.
Even so, Zinkiewicz said it's not because they don't want a job. They may not know how to seal the deal.
"They don't have the skills and they don't have the skills for a very logical reason. They're really young they haven't learned them yet and they may not have people around them that are thinking 'Oh that's something I need to tell this young person,'" she said.
"We are getting phone calls from young people, from parents. We still have young people signing up on the portal about 100 a day. I will say that young people in this generation have had less opportunity to work than any generation previously. So this nation has seen a steady decline in youth employment engagement since 2000. It was exacerbated by the Great Recession but it was not unique to the recession. It's a consistent downward trend."
So why the steady decline? Zinkiewicz said there are a variety of reasons. Young workers are often times an insurance liability, employers may prefer older workers with more experience and the high price of education is actually keeping kids from spending their summers making minimum wage.
"Now the cost of college is so high many parents are encouraging their kids to get scholarships instead," she said.
Zinkiewicz said many of these "soft-skills" are learned on the job and many employers chose older workers instead of inexperienced teens.
"Would you rather have a 16-year old or a 30-year old," she said.
But with a little extra patience, she says employers can help the workforce of tomorrow.
"The reality is, for many young people in their very first job, no they don't know what to do and they need some extra attention," she said, "They bring a lot of energy and resilience with them."
Opportunity NOW posts jobs year-around.