Ohio teens’ job rate worsens

38.5 percent held summer jobs in 2011. More employers require learning past high-school diploma.

Only 38.5 percent of Ohio teenagers ages 16-19 held jobs in the summer last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.

While Ohio’s youth employment rate was higher than the national average, the employment rate for teenagers fell far short of Ohio’s overall average of 58.5 percent and was only higher than those age 65 years or older.

Many employers who would have previously hired those without any post-secondary certification are now requiring it, creating a large deficit of jobs available for teenagers.

“The world we’re working in today is more technology and information based. It’s more mechanized than it was 20-30 years ago. The number of jobs in Dayton that require no post-secondary education is decreasing every day,” said Tom Lasley, professor at the University of Dayton’s School of Education and Allied Professions.

He is leading a community-wide effort to prepare students for college.

In 2011, more than 25 percent of U.S. teens were employed, dropping from 45.4 percent in 1999/ 2000, according to Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies.

For Ohio, the percentage point change was slightly better, dropping 17.4 points to 34.9 percent in 2011 from 52.3 percent in 1999-2000.

Ohio ranks 31st of states with the lowest employment rates for teens.

Florida, California, Arizona, Tennessee and New Mexico rank the highest, respectively.

The analysis included results of a simulation done by Northeastern that estimated an additional 533,000 teens would have had jobs in 2011 if the 1999-2000 rates had been maintained.

That means nearly 1.3 million teens would have been working last year, compared to the actual 800,000 who held jobs.

Struggle to find work

Dillon Keating, 17, of Springfield was one of those 550,000 without a job in 2011, and his struggle has continued this year. Keating, who is homeschooled and just graduated, said he completed a few applications but never heard back from any potential employers.

Keating attributed the fact that most employers want people with more experience as the reason fewer teenagers are employed. But he said he will continue to apply for jobs. “I want a job to have money to do things but also to be able to take care of my responsibilities,” he said.

Other area teenagers, such as Craig Ramby, 16, of Dayton, were able to find summer jobs, but not without a long search.

Ramby, who will be a junior at Carroll High School, had held previous jobs with the Dayton Parks and Recreation Department, North Dayton Garden Center and the Montgomery County Board of Elections, but even with his experience, he had to look hard for a job.

He said he filled out 10 applications at grocery stores and fast-food restaurants, but was told no one was hiring.

On a tip from his school bus driver, he applied to Scene75, a new family entertainment center in Vandalia, and about three weeks later landed a job with the company.

“There’s a bad stereotype that most of them (employers) have about teenagers. There are lazy kids out there who don’t want to do anything, but there are also a lot of hard-working kids like me,” Ramby said.

Ramby, looking to major in mechanical engineering in college, said the tough job search has motivated him to continue to perform well in school.

Ramby’s plan for college is something that Lasley hopes to see more of through his efforts with the new program, Learn to Earn Dayton.

The nonprofit aims to increase the number of high school students moving on to post-secondary education. A goal is to have 60 percent of the workforce, ages 25-64, with marketable post-secondary credentials by 2025.

“We are focused on trying to identify ways to drive more young people towards some sort of post-secondary marketable degree or credential and significantly increase the numbers of those who do,” said Lasley, the program’s executive director.

Lasley said it is projected that in 2020, two out of every three living-wage jobs will require a post-secondary credential.

“With the structural changes in the economy, a high school diploma is not the guarantee that it was 20-30 years ago,” said Bob Stoughton, research administrator for the Family and Children First Council in Dayton.

The agency’s 2011 progress report showed that only about one third of Montgomery County high school graduates obtained a college degree within six years of graduation, a statistic that Learn to Earn Dayton hopes to change.

Even with the low numbers of teenage employment in Ohio, Ramby encourages fellow teenagers to continue their job searches.

“Just don’t give up,” Ramby said. “I never gave up, and I just kept trying, and it all worked out.”

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2113 or kelsey.cundiff@ coxinc.com.

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