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A resource produced for parents and educators by Lourdes Hill College in Brisbane. 

  • Writer's pictureLourdes Hill College

Why are part-time jobs so important for our teens?

By Linda Stade

Me: That’s a lovely dress. Can I help with sizing Sir?

Him: It’s for my wife. She’s about your size…but shorter… and much skinnier.


My first part-time job as a teenager was in women’s clothing. It was the Christmas rush and I had countless conversations like this. I learnt how to help (sometimes rude) customers, how to manage money, deal with complaints, do paperwork, and wrap ANYTHING!

It was a great experience and it led to many other work opportunities as a teenager. I developed so many skills in those jobs that I count them as my second education. So, if you’re wondering whether your young person should get a job, I say...Yes!

What do the experts think?

Richelle Staley is Careers Counsellor at Lourdes Hill College in Brisbane. She says, “School is a young person’s main job, and it should be their focus, but a part-time job can teach invaluable skills and help them decide what sort of career might suit them in the future.”

Of course, every child’s situation is different, and you are the expert on your child, so you should make the best decision in partnership with them. That said, there are some common factors to consider.

Richelle says, “Getting the balance right between school, cocurricular, family time and a part-time job is something kids need guidance with. It is a whole family decision because it will often impact the whole family. Questions need to be asked, like:

  • Can you cope with another commitment at this stage? Will you need to reassess the commitments you already have?

  • Where is the job and how will you get there? Will an adult need to drive you?

  • Will this have an impact on family time and holidays?”

If you do decide as a family that a part-time job is right for your child, then you need to be prepared to support them. They will be facing lots of new situations and challenges and will fall into their competency gaps. You can be a guide and help them grow from those experiences.

What are the benefits of a part-time job for teenagers?

1. They learn to raise their gaze

A part-time job enables a child to raise their gaze. They see more of the world they live in. Everybody is not the same as them or the kids at their school, and all adults don’t think the same way as their parents. It broadens their worldview.

Having a few hours of paid work or work experience a week also helps them to literally raise their gaze from schoolwork. It is a chance to think about something else, make friends from outside of school, and build confidence and self-esteem.

2. They discover the value of money

In the past, it was easy to teach kids the value of money. We saw our parents hand over cash and receive goods or services. It made sense. Nowadays, everything is done with the wave of a card and cash is nearly extinct. It is difficult for kids to understand the value of money because they can’t see it.

However, do you know what puts the value of money into sharp perspective? A job! There is nothing like working for $17 an hour in a smelly, greasy fish and chip shop to make you rethink the value of a new $150 pair of jeans!

3. They learn from adults other than parents and teachers

Having a boss is a terrific wake-up call. They have expectations of teens, and unlike parents and teachers, bosses do not keep giving second chances. The boss is primarily interested in their business, so our teens learn quickly that they are there for a purpose and they must perform.

A boss can also become a significant mentor who helps your child learn new skills at point-of-need. Humans learn skills much more quickly and effectively if they are relevant and immediately useful. You might try and teach your child time management every day with little effect, but a boss can show them that if they don’t get to work on time, they will get their pay docked. They learn quickly!

4. The skills they learn are valued

We all know that employers want graduates with work-based skills. They want to know a person’s capacity. If a candidate has had a part-time job during school it points to an ability to manage time, work with others, and take direction.

Interestingly, Richelle Staley says some universities are also becoming more interested in work experience when looking at early entry requirements. For example, Australian National University in Canberra includes part-time work as one of the categories in its selection process. A high ATAR is lovely, but it doesn’t tell the university about your suitability for self-managed study or your personal aptitude for the career path you’re applying for.

5. Part-time work gives kids relational skills.

Have you ever asked your teen to make a phone call? If you have, you probably get the same response I get from the resident teen….”No way. Cringe! I’ll text them.”

If you push the issue, they will get on and off that phone quick as lightning. It’s understandable as they seldom need to communicate on the spot, especially with strangers. They have the luxury of messaging and email.

A work environment forces young people to develop relational skills. They must communicate appropriately with customers and co-workers and learn social etiquette. If they don’t the feedback is swift, in the form of a complaint or an attitude adjustment from their boss.

The great thing is they learn that communicating with people of different ages and different walks of life can be fun. Well, maybe not always fun, but useful… and it turns out, you can’t die of ‘cringe’.

6. A part-time job will help your child find their work cluster.

When we ask a child what they want to do when they leave school, they will give a specific occupation. It is often a doctor, nurse, lawyer, teacher, firefighter, or something that they know about because of family members or what they see on television.

Kids will choose from a pool of 1% of the jobs that are available to them. As a result, careers experts, like Richelle Staley, now talk to students about work clusters rather than just focusing on specific industries. She says, “Work clusters are categories of skill sets that exist in most industries. For example, in the travel industry, there are bus drivers, accountants, and tour guides, and any number of other roles. Same industry, but different day-to-day skills. Thus the roles fall into different work clusters.”

The six clusters discussed at Lourdes Hill College come from Ponder Education. They include:

Cluster identification quiz for adults:

Having a part-time job, or a few part-time jobs over time, enables your child to grow an understanding of what cluster they should be looking at. They learn what they love and loathe!

Final thought…

A young person’s first job is a rite of passage, a step into the adult world. Make sure you take the time to discuss it and celebrate with your teenager. They may roll their eyes, but it’s important. Then… watch them grow!


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