Saturday jobs are an essential rite of passage, so why are they dying out?

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  • Less than 1 in 4 teens are now willing to get their hands dirty in the world of part-time work

    From sitting hungover in a dark storeroom to clumsily serving a suspiciously latte-looking ‘cappuccino’ to a disappointed customer, many of us can recount at least one skin-crawling memory from our teenage years spent working in a Saturday job.

    Far from glamorous, Saturday jobs have long been seen as a rite of passage for teens, providing a rocky introduction to the adult world of responsibility, personal finance and interpersonal skills. Until now, that is, as a recent report from the Resolution Foundation has warned that the number of working teenagers in the UK has officially halved.

    News that the Saturday job is officially dying out has left me feeling deflated, especially when I consider all I’ve learned from part-time work. From the age of 16, I balanced my studies with a Saturday job at various cafés and bars, honing everything from coffee-frothing techniques and pint-pulling, to the art of suave customer smalltalk and even toilet-cleaning skills.

    Besides equipping me with basic life skills and helping me become more independent and financially-savvy, the work also allowed me to befriend fellow employees – like kids my age from unfamiliar areas, and older single parents working late nights. Many with backgrounds, traditions and views so different to mine that each conversation brought with it a new sense of understanding for my wider community and the world around me.

    The report attributed the decline in Saturday jobs to more teens choosing to focus on studies over part-time work. Fair enough, you might think (especially given the fact employers are now offering less entry-level jobs). But if you ask me, creating an environment where 75% of young people are unwilling, or feel unable, to take on the responsibility of a Saturday job is no good thing.

    Besides providing an often much-needed form of income (important when you consider the average student debt totals around £50,000) I know first-hand that the skills learned during Saturday jobs go far beyond pint-pulling and customer service. They toughen us up and teach us lessons about the real world that sitting behind a desk or listening in on a lecture simply can’t. Did I enjoy being yelled at by middle-aged men to ‘crack a smile, love’ as I cleared tables? Or struggling to count out a handful of change with a six-person queue sighing loudly? Of course not. But did it teach me the importance of practicing patience in the face of adversity, and improve my communication and problem-solving abilities? Absolutely.

    For now, I’m clinging to one tiny sliver of good news – it seems at least half of employers feel similarly and believe young people leaving school or university are, quite simply, not ‘work ready’. In which case (I’m hoping anyway) maybe there’s still hope for the Saturday job yet…

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