Over the next few weeks, many high schools across the country will be letting out for summer break and students will start or return to their summer jobs. In fact, in July of 2014, there were approximately 20.1 million young people entering the workforce; some for the first time. Summer jobs provide numerous opportunities for students to begin deciding what they want to do after high school graduation and narrow down their career and college interests. Paid jobs, internships, and apprenticeships also generate lessons in navigating job prospects and decision making for their futures. Employment and other work experience can help students build strong, competitive résumés for college applications and career opportunities. Students that work through the summer will be seen by employers and admissions committees as motivated and serious about their future success.
Often, students are entering the workforce, having no frame of reference for what to expect from their employers and themselves as employees. This inexperience coupled with inadequate safety training can lead to serious injuries for these entry-level employees and their colleagues. Over 50% of the working population is employed in small businesses – where safety challenges include lack of resources and money; less than half of all small businesses say they are prepared for severe emergencies or that safety plans are communicated regularly – which can potentially lead to only brief safety training on procedures and policies. This in turn, creates more vulnerability for teens in the workplace. Every nine minutes, a young worker is injured while on the job. It is important to be reminded that young people between the ages of 16 and 24 report a workplace injury at a rate two times higher than any other age group.
Many industries that employ young workers include food service, grocery stores, retail, landscaping, and on construction sites. Young workers are often asked to do jobs that are not allowed by laws designed to protect younger workers, or that can be hazardous without proper training. It is inevitable that accidents may happen, but injury incidents should never be caused by negligence.
Educators can help prepare their students for their summer jobs by providing them with resources they will carry with them forever. An effective learning approach begins with the educator’s belief in safety as an integral part of their instruction and guidance. Incorporating safety training, such as an OSHA 10-Hour course, in high school CTE classrooms and labs can establish a safety mindset before students create dangerous habits from lack of training. By educating students on health and safety laws and their rights as workers, we are one step closer to ensuring each young person’s first summer job is just the beginning of a long, safe, and healthy working career. No job is worth a young worker’s life.