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Column: It’s not too late for teens to find summer jobs



More teens are forecast to be working this summer, and for those looking to land jobs there are plenty of opportunities. It’s not too late to start looking, says Andrew Challenger, labor and workplace expert and senior vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

The outplacement and business and executive coaching firm forecasts teens will gain 1.3 million jobs across the country in May, June and July 2024 due to consumer demand and teens’ desire to work this summer.

This would be the highest number of summer jobs added since 2020, when teens took 2.19 million new positions in the summer months, according to the Chicago-based firm. It also exceeds the 1.03 million jobs employers actually added for teens during the summer months of 2023 and the 1.1 million job estimate the firm issued last year, Andrew Challenger said.

“Coming into the summer, there are already a lot of teens employed right now,” he said. “They are working throughout the year at a higher rate than we’ve seen in more than a decade. Inflation has something to do with it. Families and teens need those extra work hours to have pocket money to do things teens want to do.”

In April, there were 5.59 million workers aged 16 to 19 employed. That’s down a bit from March, according to non-seasonally adjusted data from the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. But it was the highest March total since 2007, the firm noted.

While inflation has eased, it continues. Food prices are 26% higher than in January 2020, and rent prices are up 22%, Conference Board economists Dana Peterson and Erik Lundh shared with CNN in March.

The average basket of goods and services most Americans buy in any given month is 17% more expensive, they noted. Consumer prices rose 0.3% in April edging down from the 0.4% rise reported in both March and February, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said earlier this month, but over the past 12 months, prices rose 3.4%.

While affecting family budgets, inflation also is driving up employers’ labor costs. That’s causing some employers to be slower to hire, but the need and demand for teen workers remains, Challenger said.

“Some industries like food and restaurants have been consistently understaffed for a while, so those industries are happy to get extra workers during the summer as teens look for work,” said Challenger.

Other industries that surge employment during the summer months and present traditional opportunities for teen job seekers include amusement parks, retail stores, summer camps, movie theaters and recreational sites such as public pools.

Wage increases have made jobs more attractive to teens, and depending on the position, teens can expect wages to average between $16 and $20 an hour, Challenger said.

South Suburban Special Recreation Association is among employers seeking to fill summer openings. The Tinley Park-based association provides recreational programs for children and adults with special needs and is seeking to fill camp supervisor and internship positions that pay between $15.50 and $16.25 an hour, said spokesperson Anna Broccolo.

“We provide all the training,” she said. “They don’t need any previous experience, although it’s wonderful if they have experience.”

She said they are looking for teens who are patient, kind, compassionate and personable.

Mentoring Youth Through Technology, which works to enhance opportunities for youth to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math, also is looking for teen summer staff to work as program assistants, said Community Engagement Manager Millicent Walker. The organization is based in South Holland and has a STEM Center in Matteson.

Teen summer job applicants don’t need to be tech savvy, Walker said. The organization also provides training. An ideal candidate would be someone who is “responsible, good with younger students, open to learning, engaging, self-motivated and a good team player,” she said.

The Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership has summer job opportunities for teens, said Cook County Commissioner Donna Miller, who advises teens to consider summer employment.

“Take advantage of opportunities that are out there,” said Miller. “They should try to find something they think they might be interested in because that’s a good way to learn. If they’re still in high school, these types of jobs will help them maybe decide what their major will be in college.”

For teens interested in finding summer work, if you haven’t started looking yet, get going, said Challenger.

“June is traditionally the most popular month for teen hiring,” he said.

He advises teen job seekers to create and connect to their networks. You may not think you have one. You do. Reach out to friends, parents, parents of friends, current and past teachers and coaches, and managers of places you frequent who may be aware of job opportunities, he said.

Teens should create a resume, cover letter and email template to send to prospective employers. It should include extra-curricular activities, volunteer experiences and any other information to show a prospective employer you are a self-starter and can be a team player, he advised.

Challenger also recommends teens investigate summer paid internships in industries they find appealing to gain real work experience.

And think outside the box. While summer camps, retail businesses, theme parks and movie theaters come to mind for teens, many offices need administrative staff who can organize files, take calls or manage social media profiles, Challenger said.

Here are some helpful links and contacts for teens seeking summer jobs:

Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership:

Office of the Illinois Secretary of State: and click on summer jobs.

Illinois Department of Employment Security: and search summer jobs, or go to

Cook County government:

Calumet City:

South Suburban Special Recreation Association: Visit

Mentoring Youth Through Technology: Visit or email

Francine Knowles is a freelance columnist for the Daily Southtown.

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