It probably comes as no surprise, but a lot of people are looking for work these days while few businesses are hiring.
In a tight job market, high school students are left unemployed as established adults take entry-level jobs and college graduates who can’t find entry-level jobs take jobs meant for college students and college students keep the jobs they had in high school.
Teens like Jhaqueil Reagan of Indianapolis are squeezed out of the job market and have a hard time finding a job. Jhaqueil, 18, dropped out of high school to care for his younger siblings after his mother died but he earned a GED certificate in 2011. However, his family still struggles.
A few weeks ago, Jhaqueil arranged for an interview at a thrift store. On the day of the interview an ice storm hit. Jhaqueil didn’t have a car but instead of calling to reschedule, he did what any person desperate for work would do: He started walking.
Along the way, he stopped at a restaurant and asked how much farther he had to walk. He was told the thrift store was still six miles away. Jhaqueil continued his trek through the ice. Twenty minutes later, a car stopped along the side of the road. It was the restaurant owner, Art Bouvier. When he learned that Jhaqueil was walking to a job interview, Bouvier made a decision. He hired Jhaqueil on the spot.
When asked why he hired the teen, Bouvier said, “If you’d do all that to see if you could get a job, you’d do it to keep your job.”
There are countless teens like Jhaqueil in every city in every state. They want to work but have no opportunities. There are numerous programs designed to help teens, but nowhere near as robust as in years past.
In New Orleans, the mayor’s office funds a summer work program to complete community service projects. Participants are paid between $100 and $300 a week. In 2011 and 2012, the city spent almost $3 million on the program. This year, it will spend less than $1 million.
In Illinois, the city of Arlington Heights wants to organize a teen job fair. It extended its initial deadline for participating businesses because only two businesses initially signed up.
Ironically, laws intended to protect employees often make it more difficult for teens to find jobs. According to the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, many businesses are hesitant to hire inexperienced teens because the minimum wage makes the risk of hiring an unproven employee too costly.
Fortunately, that’s not the case for Jhaqueil. His new boss shared his new employee’s story on Facebook and the post went viral. Soon Jhaqueil and his boss were telling their story on national television.
The exposure brought attention, and that attention brought donations. The two are using the money they’ve received to start a foundation to support underprivileged teens looking for work.
Who knows, if the foundation finds enough success, maybe it will soon post “Help Wanted” ads of its own.