The educational benefits of giving teens a summer job

Summer is of course high season for youth employment. A foray into the working world over the summer holidays not only prepares teens for a smooth transition from school to the job market, it can also help them develop many skills that they can use when they return to school.

Summer skill development

By working during the summer, young people are exposed – perhaps for the first time – to the culture and codes of the workplace. As they learn to operate in this new environment and carry out the tasks assigned to them, they are forced to develop or build on their organizational abilities, sense of responsibility, and personal discipline – skills that will be highly useful in their future educational and professional undertakings. As they gain experience in the job, they will also learn more about their own strengths and weaknesses and even their professional interests.

Another often overlooked benefit is that summer jobs allow young people to form connections with significant adults, who can serve as positive role models and sources of validation and recognition.

In a healthy working environment, such experiences help strengthen a young person’s self-esteem, which is an important determinant of whether or not they will stay in school.

Want to hire a young person during the school year?

Did you know that 27% of secondary 4 and 5 students in Montréal hold down a job during the school year?[1]

Obviously, for the benefits of a summer job to be tangible and put to good use, a young person must return to school in the fall. But back to school doesn’t necessarily mean out of a job! The roles of student and young employee can go hand in hand, as long as work makes up a sensible and limited part of their activities – one that allows them to focus on their studies.

As an employer, you can make a huge difference by implementing simple measures that encourage work/school balance. For example:

  • Reduce the number and significance of the pressures involved in a young student’s job (fatigue, noise, stress, lifting heavy loads, standing, difficult relationships with colleagues, etc.). The greater these pressures, the greater the possible negative effects on the student.
  • Offer no more than 20 hours per week (adapting this average to the student’s age, grade, type of job, and inherent pressures). For example, a young person working 6 hours per week in stressful or physically demanding conditions could conceivably experience greater harm than a student working 18 hours per week in good conditions.
  • Be aware of exam periods so you can provide flexible hours (e.g., reduce the number of hours before an exam and not offer a shift the day before).

A young person’s first job is often something they will remember for the rest of their lives. Students who know that their employers understand that school comes first will be less stressed and perform better at work. During both the summer holidays and the school year, by acting responsibly toward the young people you hire, by helping them achieve a work/school balance, and by asking them about how they’re doing at school, you can play an important role in their educational success and ultimate transformation into fulfilled citizens who will help make a better society.

Photo credit: Réseau réussite Montréal


GAUDREAULT, M., LABERGE, L., ARBOUR, N. et M. M. GAUDREAULT (2015). La conciliation études-travail chez les élèves francophones montréalais de 4e et de 5e années du secondaire. Jonquière, ÉCOBES – Recherche et transfert, 84 pages.

Réseau des Instances régionales de concertation sur la persévérance scolaire et la réussite éducative du Québec (2017). Savoir concilier études et travail, 4 pages.

[1] Secondary 4 and 5 students from French-speaking school boards on the Island of Montréal.

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