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Power and beauty and impact of a summer job

Mint summer workers review and critique each other’s work. (Photo © Brendan Ross)

Picture a summer job and you may imagine something quaint and outdoorsy:  a life guard, camp counselor, caddy or park attendant. Or perhaps you recall your first summer job scooping Italian ice, mowing lawns or fixing fast food.  

Yet for many teens, paid work is more likely to be imaginary than real, despite many benefits these jobs bring.  Only about a third of teens worked for pay in 2018, and that has trended down for two decades, according to the Pew Research Center.   The employment rate is likely to tumble further this year, as record unemployment and businesses closed during the pandemic will mean less hiring for young people.  “Paid jobs are scarcer than a Stanford admission,” The Washington Post reported recently.

Mint Artists Guild is an exception, hiring 30 percent more young artists from Detroit and creating more opportunities for work in Detroit. We do this because the need is great and so is the payoff for those hired and their communities. Summer jobs create many positive outcomes, some immediate and some years after the last campfire or painting is finished.  Here’s a look at benefits documented by many academic and other researchers: 

Opportunities grow.  Summer jobs may increase college aspiration and community engagement and they definitely reduce inequality, researchers found.

Safer cities.  Several studies showed reductions in violent crime by up to 43 percent among youth participating in summer jobs, and jobs also lower rates of incarceration in another study. The reduction in youth crime lasted for 15 months after the summer job ended.

Wellbeing improves.  Youth or adults who are employed experience boosts in wellbeing, self-esteem and life satisfaction, just by working eight hours a week. Researchers also note they are more likely to get through trying circumstances than others.

A summer job creates many benefits to the worker and to society. (Photo Bruce Mars / Unsplash)

Future earnings.  Working during college, whether part-time or full-time, leads to to higher earnings after graduation. This research by Rutgers University and others is based on 160,000 students;  jobs add to students’ networks, skills and post-college paychecks. The amount varied from $1,035 to $20,625. But the post-college premium showed up for a wide variety of students, regardless of their race, type of university or previous work experience.

Academic achievement rises.  In the year after summer jobs in Boston, researchers calculated a “small but significant” improvement in GPAs. Young workers were also more likely to graduate from high school on time. Academic improvements were “particularly large” when youth in New York were hired for several summers in a row. “Participating in summer jobs programming for multiple years pays dividends for high school students well beyond the paycheck itself,” New York University researchers wrote.

Mint’s summer creative jobs program teaches productivity and professionalism as well as painting and artistic skills.  We will create original paintings for our fifth annual Paint Detroit with Generosity initiative. This year, the jobs will take place from youth homes, as required by our partner Grow Detroit’s Young Talent, and will feature new online workshops on managing clients, writing an artist statement and digital work etiquette.

If you want to support our Lucky 13 artists, we invite you to donate to our spring fundraiser – or become a monthly donor now.

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© Vickie Elmer, 2020, for Mint Artists Guild