SAN FRANCISCO, California—There are over a hundred teenagers from low-income families that benefit from the mentorship programs of the nonprofit organization United Playaz. All of them are either underemployed or have no jobs at all.
For these teens, money is harder to come by.
“My mom has a hard time paying the bills,” said Patrick Guevarra, a 17-year-old looking for more work. “I still have my cell phone. I have to have a job to pay for it. If I get hungry, I need food.”
The recession has been exceptionally tough for 16- to 19-year-olds. Three decades ago, more than 8 million teenagers were working. Now, only 4 million teenagers work.
“Because there’s less jobs, you have the older adults competing with younger kids,” said Edgar Espanol, the United Playaz Employment Specialist. “They (adults) have more experience. They have more to give as far as responsibility, accountability.”
Izzabella Velez, 16, has been actively looking for a job in the retail and food industries for months. She says some employers don’t even bother to call back.
“I just feel like they think we’re not reliable because we’re younger and we’re not hard-working, like the regular lazy teenagers. But I don’t think that’s true. A lot of us are hard-working and we are motivated to get our money,” Velez said.
Yuan Ongpin, owner of a Beard Papa’s franchise in San Francisco, says while teenagers do have less experience than older workers they should not be discouraged to apply. “They should network. Get in touch with their aunts and uncles. It’s a matter of getting somebody to vouch for you,” Ongpin said.
Advocates for low-income teenagers are now calling for the Obama administration to allocate US$1.5 billion from the federal stimulus money to create summer jobs for teens. Although hiring is expected to increase this year, advocates say the private sector cannot do it alone, and that the government needs to do its share in training and hiring teens.
For Melvin Chavez, another teen in search of job, all he wants are better chances in the job market.
“Give teenagers chances, chances to succeed in life, to be better in the future,” he said. Balitang America