At Worthington Libraries' first teen job fair in 2012, Jason Hudson, manager of the downtown Worthington Graeter's store, made a discovery: Aidan McCarthy.
Hudson hired McCarthy as a team member after meeting the 17-year-old at the event. McCarthy, now a senior at Thomas Worthington High School, still works at the store and has since been promoted to team leader.
The library's third teen job and volunteer fair is scheduled Saturday, Jan. 25, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Old Worthington Library, 820 High St. The event will bring Graeter's, Sam's Club, the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium and other businesses and community groups together for a one-stop shop.
Events like this are important, especially for teens. Although it's improving, the sluggish U.S. economy has everyone clamoring to find work in a crowded labor market, and adults are now competing for part-time jobs normally filled by teens.
Automation also has eliminated many after-school, weekend and summer jobs normally held by first-time workers as computerized equipment has helped companies trim positions.
According to statistics from the U.S. Labor Department, the jobless rate for 16- to 19-year-olds dropped from 24 to 20.2 percent in December 2013. To put those numbers in perspective, in the mid-2000s, the teen jobless rate was 14-18 percent; in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it was 15 percent or lower.
After-school or summer jobs offer teens valuable life experience. They boost time management and communication skills, financial responsibility and can even spark career discovery. However, depending on after-school commitments and other priorities, sometimes volunteering is a more realistic option for teens and is just as valuable a learning experience as holding down a job.
In addition to promoting self-confidence and a sense of community, volunteering looks great on college and job applications. The Healthy Worthington Resource Center & Food Pantry and other volunteer groups will be at Saturday's fair to discuss opportunities with teens.
Hillary Kline is communications specialist for Worthington Libraries.