Breaking into the job market has become terribly tough in much of Europe. (Photo: iStockphoto)
Breaking into the job market has become terribly tough in much of Europe. (Photo: iStockphoto)

Relevant summer jobs jumpstart careers

Contacts made in summer jobs or part-time work have an impact on how fast a young person finds permanent work after graduating from high school, according to Swedish researchers.

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The odds of finding a relevant job increase by 35 percent if a young person has had part-time work or summer jobs in their high school years, a new study shows.

“Direct contact with the employer is not the only benefit for the students. There are lots of others at a workplace who can be of assistance,” says Lena Hensvik, a researcher at the Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy (IFAU) in Uppsala.

“Co-workers and others they meet on the job can be at least as important as the boss or employer,”  she says.

The report she wrote with Professor Oskar Nordström Skans of Uppsala University also indicates that the kinds of part-time jobs high school students take are also important.

Lena Hensvik is with the Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy in Uppsala, Sweden. (Photo: Uppsala University)
Lena Hensvik is with the Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy in Uppsala, Sweden. (Photo: Uppsala University)

There should preferably be a relevant connection between these contacts and the area of the labour market they plan to enter.

The IFAU report shows that during the spring, when young people aged 15 to 24 are looking for summer jobs, unemployment in their age group rises in Sweden.

In 2011 this age bracket of young Swedes had an unemployment rate of 23 percent. The following year it had risen by another percentage point.

Better grades with part-time jobs

All young people who graduated from vocation-oriented fields of high school in Sweden in 2006 were included in the study. All in all, it encompassed 39,000 young people.

“It was not easy to evaluate young people who followed general academic studies, because many of them went directly to universities after graduating from high school,” says Hensvik.

The researchers identified the high school kids who had part-time and summer jobs prior to entering the labour market from figures tallied by Statistics Sweden (SCB).

The SCB figures show that 68 percent of the high school students had some form of job in addition to their studies. On the average these young people also graduated with better grades than the others.

Young people use networks more often than adults do

The researcher has found that the contacts that prove to be the most valuable for landing jobs are people who have the same work and training as the young jobseekers.

“Because of this, we can safely say that it’s of great help to have a summer job or part-time job in the same field as the young person is training for at school,” says Hensvik.

For instance, it would be better for someone training for a job in the construction industry to get a part-time or summer job at a firm specialising in a skill than to work in a clothing store.

International studies tend to find that social networks are important for getting jobs, particularly for young people.

Can skills and other characteristics play as an important role as contacts and networks?

“An employer will also look at other factors, such as the knowledge they’ve picked up at school and a young person’s motivation. It’s hard to estimate the degree to which these could weigh in and compensate for a lack of networking,” says Hensvik.

The situation in Norway

Norway has little unemployment compared to Sweden and the rest of Europe. But figures from Statistics Norway show that five percent of young people aged 20 to 24 were unemployed in 2012. This was the age group with the highest rate of joblessness.

By comparison, in the age group 50-59 less than two percent were unemployed.

No similar study has been made about the impact of networks for Norwegian high school students in securing work after graduation. 
“But the situation is probably similar in Norway,” says Hensvik.

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Read the Norwegian version of this article at forskning.no

Translated by: Glenn Ostling

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