Is now the best time for a first job?

Considering the risks, you have to wonder if students should look for work if they don’t need it

Is now the best time for a first job?

My son is looking for a job. It would be his first job -- the only thing he had close was an offer to be a Scout at a summer camp, which he eventually declined because it would involve a full two months of the summer.

I admire his recent enthusiasm. I’m not sure where it came from, all of a sudden, but a desire for steady income seems to be the driving force. And going into Grade 12, he could definitely use the experience to boost up his sparse resume; plus, I’d be all too happy to see him getting out of the house more.

But it’s a strange time. I’ll actually forget for a few minutes, as I help him with filling out online application forms that really don’t apply to high school students. And then I’ll remember: There’s a pandemic going on and people are wearing masks and hand sanitizer and he’ll have to work in a risky environment.

On the one hand, I want to be enthusiastic about him getting out into the world, meeting new people, improving his social skills, learning about business. But it’s hard not to be concerned, to question whether this is the right move right now.

Of course, there are millions of people in the retail sector admirably doing these very jobs, despite the risks. But does that mean my son’s first job should be so daunting? Maybe he should wait six months until things have settled down, if that’s possible.

That’s not to say he’ll have an easy time of it. He’s looking locally so the options are limited, and of course the overall stats are not encouraging.

From February to April, employment among youth plummeted by over one-third (34.2 per cent or 873,000), according to Statistics Canada. By July, youth employment was 17.4 per cent less than in February (445,000).

And employment for 15- to 24-year-olds who are returning to school in the fall has fallen by 172,000 or 12.8 per cent on a year-over-year basis. About three-quarters of the employment decline was recorded in Ontario where restrictions were eased later than in other provinces.

I also know some high school graduates have decided to postpone their first year of post-secondary education, so they too are looking for jobs this year.

I guess it comes down to the “new normal” and whether this ever will be a thing. We can’t put our lives on hold, we can’t wait for the way things used to be and we can’t worry too much about what they’ve become. We have to adapt to what we know and keep looking ahead.

And there’s something reassuring in knowing that his first job could be at McDonald’s, a tried-and-true starter job for many students for decades.

Plus, if he does manage to get an interview, I’ll be curious to find out what kinds of safety measures are used at that workplace, and how employees are trained on it, particularly the young ones. I’ll look forward to the HR insights!

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