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Teens get jump on careers
Summer jobs become exploration of sorts

By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer

As he leads games and sings along with kids at the Salvation Army's summer program, Sterling Mooney knows this is what he wants to do as a career.

"I like kids, for some strange reason," said Mooney, a child psychology major at Connors State College. "It's great just to get me working this summer."

Mooney is one of a growing number of high school and college students who find summer work related to what they want to do as a career. Mooney said he wants to do something with kids.

That's a good plan, according to Johni Wardwell, job placement specialist at Indian Capital Technology Center. "It's a good idea to use any sort of work, paid or unpaid, to explore a career someone might be interested in."

Each year, at least 2 million people between ages 16 to 24 swell the workforce between April and July, the traditional peak of youth employment, the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics reported. From April to July 2004, the number increased by 2.3 million, to 21.4 million, the bureau said.

Renee Ward, founder of the job placement Web site, said she definitely sees a trend toward more teens looking for career-related summer jobs. The site links teens looking for certain jobs with appropriate employers.

Ward said 16 percent of the teens using the site are not interested in what she called the top three employers of teens: retail, fast food and office.

"They're looking at something related to their career," she said. "And most of these teens want it as a paying job, not just as a volunteer or as an internship. Thy want the experience to help them prepare for future work."

Mooney, a sophomore at Connors, said his job at the Salvation Army's program, part of the Boys Clubs and Girls Clubs of America, has helped him work with kids, an important step in his career.

"I like working with kids," he said. "I'm learning how to talk to a kid and to listen. I worked here last year, and it's a great privilege to come back."

He's not the only one with a career-appropriate summer job.
Wagoner High School 2005 graduate Julie French, who is seeking a career in an international corporation and majoring in international studies, worked in a law firm before enrolling in summer classes at the University of Oklahoma.

Similarly, 2005 Muskogee High School graduate Amber Jones has a job that somewhat fits her goal for a medical career: She has worked at Honor Heights Veterinary Clinic for about two years.
"I get to observe the surgery and I get to see a lot of blood and guts, so I know I can handle medical school," she said in a June issue of the Muskogee Phoenix.

Wardwell said Muskogee Regional Medical Center "is a good place to explore a medical career, even if it's not a paid job."
Manufacturing and food places also are good areas to study and explore, she said. also helps employers find teens with particular interests, which could be another boost toward a teens' career, Ward said.

"PetCo has tons of opportunities for teens who like animals," she said, adding that PetCo pet stores in Tulsa might have openings.
The nationwide site has 9,250 applicants from Oklahoma, including 1,800 in Tulsa. Ward said the site mainly serves teens in urban areas but is trying to reach applicants in more rural areas. She said she's not aware of applicants or employers in the Muskogee area.
Although a summer job can help one's career focus, it still isn't the main reason teens work, said Kelly Arrington, guidance division coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.

"I think the majority go into summer jobs for extra dollars for various reasons: car-gas, extra buying power, help with family expenses, etc.," she said.

Ward said today's teens are working not for "niceties" such as CDs but for necessities such as transportation, clothing or saving for college.

"They also want the experience to help them prepare for college," she said.

Kassi Armstrong, who works at Twisted Joe's Pretzels in Arrowhead Mall, said she needs the money to get into college. She said she probably will attend Northeastern State University.
Co-worker Allison Nevitt kneads the dough for similar reasons. She is saving for college and hopes to major in pharmacy.
"I don't plan on flipping pretzels for a career," she said, a she twisted a roll of dough into a pretzel shape.

Still, Nevitt said she is gaining more than just extra dollars with her summer job.

"You learn to work with people and relate to people," she said.
Armstrong said she learns responsibility at her job.

Arrington said summer jobs "can help students begin to develop employability skills such as showing up on time, dependability and teamwork."

"And they can help them see the need for further education," she said.

Twisted Joe's manager, Miriam Sommers, said her summer job at a record store taught her how to work with the public and deal with different people. Sticking with the job instilled management skills that helped her through her current career, she said.

"My first job, when I was 15, was at Sound Warehouse and I mainly spent my money on clothing," she said. "I went straight from high school to managing the music store."

Originally published June 19, 2005

Staff photo by Jerry Willis

Allison Nevitt twists pretzels at Twisted Joe's in Arrowhead Mall. Nevitt is a Muskogee High School graduate working through the summer before going to the University of Oklahoma in the fall.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Among Youth Survey:

Where the jobs are
·  City, county, state and other government-run youth programs.
·  Vacation and tourism spots including resorts, parks, swimming pools, golf courses, museums, zoos, camps.
·  Airport concession firms.
·  Child-care and elder-care providers.
·  Health-care facilities.
·  Business services such as moving, lawn care and maintenance companies.
·  Construction companies.
·  Movie theaters.
·  Fast-food and restaurant establishments.
·  Clothing and accessory stores.