Survey: Teens Want Job Security

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Most high school students think it's more important to find a meaningful, secure job than to make a lot of money, preliminary findings from a new survey on youth and employment show.

For More Information

Preliminary results from "Ask the Children 2000: Youth and Employment" are available by calling the Families and Work Institute at (212) 465-2044, ext. 210. The full report will be released this summer.

But of those survey respondents who have a current job or held one last summer, far more said they worked to get extra spending cash than to save for college or help them decide what job they would like when they're older.

Developed by the Families and Work Institute, a New York City-based nonprofit group, the survey was conducted as part of the institute's "Ask the Children 2000" research program. Some 1,028 10th through 12th graders from across the country responded to the survey, which asked the students about their work experience, use of technology, and job expectations.

Joy Bunson, the senior vice president for organizational development at Chase Manhattan Bank, which paid for the study, said the results would be valuable to businesses competing for new employees in a hot economy.

"We need to get ahead of this and understand the next generation," Ms. Bunson said. "The war for talent is becoming increasingly real."

Asked what aspects a job "must have," 84 percent of the survey respondents listed "having a job that is meaningful to me." The second-most-common response, cited by 82 percent of respondents, was "having a secure job that I don't have to worry about losing."

By comparison, only 58 percent listed "being able to make lots of money" among their "must haves" in a job.

The importance that the students placed on job security was unexpected, said Ellen Galinsky, the president and co-founder of the Families and Work Institute and the author of the 1999 book Ask the Children: What America's Children Really Think About Working Parents.

Apparently, the participating students were affected by the era of downsizing their parents' generation experienced in great numbers, Ms. Galinsky concluded. As one student in the survey stated in a written comment: "[W]e're all replaceable. One person can come in and fill your shoes in no time."

Reasons for Working

Almost eight out of 10 students involved in the study have a paid or unpaid job this school year, or held one last summer.

Most of these students—57 percent—reported that they worked for "extra spending money to buy the things they want." Other reasons included "parents think it's good to have a job" (36 percent); "to save for college or long-term costs" (26 percent); and "to help decide on job in the future" (12 percent).

About one-third of the respondents with current or recent jobs said the work limited their participation in other social or sports activities. Some 36 percent said they thought they would do better in school if they did not have a job at the same time.

The survey results show that young people have a "mixed picture" of what employers are looking for in their workers, Ms. Galinsky said.

Some 75 percent listed "being able to get the job done, even when the tasks are not well-defined," the most commonly cited choice. "Having good computer skills and knowledge," meanwhile, was cited by just 54 percent of students, tied for last among the 11 skills listed.

Ms. Galinsky suspected that the latter result could be explained in part by the fact that many of the students surveyed were not heavy users of technology. Only four in 10 reported that they used the Internet very often.

Vol. 19, Issue 28, Page 10

Published in Print: March 22, 2000, as Survey: Teens Want Job Security
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