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Summer jobs more important than you think

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

What was your first summer job?

My first paying gig was hay baling for neighboring dairy farmers. I stood in a cart attached to the tractor and baler and arranged the 50 to 60 pound bales as they shot out of the baler.

Sometimes the bales arranged me. There's nothing like a bale of hay hitting you on the back of the head while you're grunting around other bales.

I know one farmer had a chuckle at my expense as he saw me go down after an in-coming bale creased my skull.

For this effort I was paid $1 an hour. If I remember correctly there were two minimum wages at the time: one for farm work and one for non-farm work. Farm work paid a buck an hour and non-farm work was the awesome sum of $1.65 an hour.

Bailing hay was hot work you always bale hay during hot dry weather so the hay won't mold in the barn but I liked having a few bucks in my pocket that I could call my own.

If you can't recall your first job, I'm sure you'll remember what you spent your money on.

Everyone needs that first job, that first time to prove to yourself and others that you're mature enough to be paid for your efforts. There used to be more summer jobs back when I was a kid and when dinosaurs ruled the earth than now. There used to be both more agricultural and manufacturing opportunities.

Today's summer jobs for teens are a valuable commodity. Adults who have lost their own jobs are more than willing to take whatever they can to make ends meet. Seniors who thought retirement would be golden now know retirement is now about minimum wage. There are not as many opportunities for those entry-level jobs as there once were.

The result is that many young people who want to work do not have the opportunity to do so. While many of us secretly long to have the chance to once again feel the freedom of having an entire summer off, it's not much fun if you are of working age, need the money and can't find a job.

In fact, it's potentially dangerous. The old chestnut that nature abhors a vacuum is correct with teens and free time. If someone doesn't give them something positive to do, they may choose whatever comes along to fill their time.

The One Youth One Job program has plenty of teens from Springfield, Chicopee and Holyoke looking for work. And thanks to a number of participating employers there are going to be at least 217 teens gainfully employed this summer.

The program, though, has funding that will allow it to pay for one teen's salary, if an employer would agree to hire two teens from the program.

If you have a job or want to learn more, contact Kathryn Kirby, the youth employment coordinator at 755-1359 at the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County today.

This column represents the opinions of its author and no one else.

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