Junior and high school students are sharpening their pencils to write their final exams before summer begins, but they should also be putting pen to paper to fill out summer job applications. Only a handful of teens know exactly what summer position they’ll hold this summer; others will apply once school winds down, or won’t look for work at all. While a summer job can be beneficial for personal development and the pocketbook, the trend of not working continues to grow—why is that?

A steady decline

According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Labour, the number of 16 to 24-year-olds looking for summer work has been dwindling for more than 30 years. The peak number came way back in July of 1989 when the rate was 77.5 percent – that number dipped to an all-time low in July 2017 to 54.8 percent.

According to the department, four in ten teens had a summer job. This summer, only one in three teens will apply for summer jobs or hold one as reported by Drexel University’s 2018 Summer Job Outlook for American Teens. “No group of workers has experienced such a sharp decline in their employment rate since 2000,” the Drexel report says.

“We do have a hard time hiring enough American teens to fill our need for lifeguards,” Doug Winkler of Winkler Pool Management told HeraldNet. That’s why many pool employers in the Mid-Atlantic region reach out to the foreign markets to attempt to hire workers.” Winkler believes the problem is that American teens do not want jobs at the low end of the pay scale and instead want to practice sports or go on family vacations in the summer, prompting him and other pool managers to do their hiring through the State Department’s cultural exchange visa program.

The struggle led to Wisconsin lowering their hiring age for lifeguards to 15 last year because they had so many unfilled positions.

What are teens doing with their summer if they’re not working?

Many students have been found to volunteer or take internships to make their college applications more appealing (although these jobs do not count towards the government data). Many have also been found attending sports or school camps, while others are off vacationing with their family.

The Wall Street Journal recently published an alarming article that parents are not allowing their teens to get summer restaurant jobs as they feel their child will be more susceptible to sexual harassment.

Why your teen should have a summer job

By having your teen work a summer job, it teaches them skills like showing up to work on time, having to smile even if you don’t want to, and meeting expectations. They’ll be able to learn how to interact with people better, while also padding their wallet at the same time.

While volunteer work or internships can be fun, they don’t always provide the learning experiences that a paid job can. If you’re volunteering, chances are that the person in charge won’t get after you to get off your phone, while if you’re working at a paid job, it’s expected that you don’t have your phone out.

By being able to work in different workforces over the summers, a teen can better gauge what they want to do when they head off to college.

How to find a summer job

Sometimes it can be difficult for a teen to find a summer job because of their lack of experience. While it can seem discouraging, you can still draw up a resume with school experience and references. Josh Burnette, an owner of a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Little Rock, Arkansas told Deseret News it comes down to presentation; he’s had teens show up with no experience but wearing a suit and have a resume in hand. “You better believe we’re going to hire somebody that has that kind of ownership over the process.” Conversely, “kids that roll up in a T-shirt and shorts and have to ask for a pen to fill out an application, are going to be a little bit more challenging.”

If you’re the parent of a teen looking for work, be sure to let them do it on their own. Have them find jobs they’re interested in, don’t force them into something they don’t want to do. You can help them put together a resume or give them a ride to apply for a job or to an interview – be there for that. But don’t go in with them while they apply. It’s important for the manager or owner to see they really want the job and don’t need help from others.