Building work experience

Kids in the U.S. start working early. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, half of the 12 year olds have some experience, primarily yard work or babysitting. Nearly four out of ten 15 year olds hold a "real" job, mostly in service, sales, or laborer jobs.

Should my high school child have work experience?

There are many advantages to teenagers getting work experience during high school or earlier:

For your teenagers' jobs to be most meaningful and valuable, talk to them about what they are learning about themselves and the work world. You might ask them questions that help them reflect, such as:

How can I help my child find a good balance between school and work?

In addition to providing extra money and real-world experience, working after school or on weekends can be a great step toward maturity and independence. Unfortunately, a job in high school or college also can distract teens from their primary task: making the grade in school and getting ready for life after they graduate.

To help your high school child make good decisions about a job, you need to:

Are there work-related classes or clubs at school?

Having a paid job is one approach to getting relevant work experience. Career-related learning experiences and service learning (or volunteer work) are others. Oregon's requirements for high school graduation are discussed in Experiencing the world of work.

Many high schools also offer clubs and student associations that focus on future careers. Through these groups, students are exposed to business ideas and interact with business professionals via courses, conferences, networking and tours. They also gain skills in leadership, communication, teamwork and socialization. Some clubs and associations offer competitions, prizes, scholarships and internships.

Your school may support one or more of these student leadership organizations:

Your school may also support Junior Achievement (JA). JA exposes students to the concepts of economics and free enterprise through hands-on experiences. The organization sponsors school-based enterprises; develops courses and programs on economics, personal finance, and workplace skills; and guides students through a web-based business simulation; among other activities. JA for Columbia Empire, Inc, serves Oregon and SW Washington; see