Letters to the Editor

Don't short-change our youth with unproductive summer employment

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

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Dear Editor,

As the summer months approach, the call for young people to participate in “summer jobs, internships and apprenticeship programmes” are coming to the fore. Do these stints, however, really serve to benefit our youngsters, and if so, how?

I am sure many people can attest to having been employed once or twice under a summer programme, which for many of us was our first exposure to the workplace. As a teenager especially, this can be a thrilling experience as one seeks to get the feet wet and be productive in the summer months. Unfortunately, too many times I have experienced where this zeal to learn as much as you can and develop into an ideal citizen and professional is quickly suppressed ,owing to the organisations' outlook on summer programmes and the people who join their establishments by virtue of these programmes.

The general perception is often that these students can only help with filing and other mundane tasks that should have been done, in some instance, 10 years ago.

Unprofessionalism, lack of procedures, lack of proper supervision, and in some instances 'job descriptions' and tasks to be accomplished capture the other half of the dilemma. As a summer worker you are sometimes left to fend for yourself in an organisation you know little to nothing about.

Should the aim of these programmes not be to develop the competencies needed in the particular field of work, while engendering positive workplace values and attitudes into summer employees? Why then do we allow so many of these programmes to short-change participants? Why engage youth in employment opportunities without putting proper mechanisms in place to ensure they are meaningfully engaged and therefore able to walk away with value added from the experience?

While not all programmes are guilty of this, the issue must be addressed if young people are to be empowered with the experience needed to transition into the workforce.

Commendations must be offered to the organisations that go above and beyond to ensure that all youngsters who enter their establishments walk away with value added. All organisations engaging young people ought to hold themselves to a standard.

I have encountered some organisations that have tremendously transformed my outlook on internships and summer employment owing to the dynamism with which they engaged me. The level of responsibility thrusted on me, coupled with the support, made the experiences rewarding and heartbreaking when the relationships came to an end.

While I laud the opportunities being afforded to young people for summer employment opportunities, I am urging all organisations to be more deliberate in their approach and to facilitate the inculcating of on-the-job skills and competences needed by our young people in the real world.

I am also urging young people to be deliberate in ensuring that they make the most of the summer job experiences and, where possible, pursue tasks that will lead to their development — and not coast through the summer job.

Richard R Palmer


Shortwood Teachers' College Students' Association


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