Although the laws vary from state to state in regards to minimum-age requirements for workers, most states do allow kids in their early teen years a chance to earn a wage, even if limiting the amount of hours they work.
Generally, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Fair Labor Standards Act establishes the minimum-age for working at 14 and limits the amount of hours worked, also curbing – to some extent – the type of work that can be performed.
I remember my own first job, washing cars after school for a small-time used car dealer. I believe I was paid $2.25 an hour, if memory serves. Think I averaged about three cars an hour. That’s a whopping 75 cents a vehicle.
With about 20 years of managing golf courses under my belt now, I must admit I don’t have a big history of hiring younger teens still in high school.
Now, I can’t say I’ve made an actual conscious attempt to not hire high school kids, but, to be truthful, I may have steered away from the youngsters here or there over the years for fear of the complications involved. I don’t know that I fully understood what those complications were exactly, but I figured it was just easier to keep it at 18 years old and above.
And, to be honest, I don’t know that I trusted the work ethic of someone 15 or 16 years old. Problem was, I think I was remembering myself at that age. Work wasn’t exactly a priority of mine at 15 when I was washing those big old American sedans for three quarters a car. I remember my boss pulling me into the office one afternoon and asking me why the cars seemed dirtier after I washed them than they did before.
But I’ve noticed something over the last couple of decades. Kids seem older, somehow. The 15-year-old of 2016 is not the 15-year-old of the 1980s or even the 1990s. Teens have, dare I say it, become more mature and even more (don’t tell them this) responsible.
Maybe I feel this way because I have a 15-year-old daughter of my own, who, every time she talks, strikes me as about 28 years old going on 35. In fact, it was because of her unrelenting insistence that I hire her this past summer for a part-time job that I broke down and finally made my first 15-year-old hire.
One disclaimer here. Although she is extremely mature and responsible for her age, I was a tad bit concerned about what her actual work ethic would be. Chores around the house are one thing. An actual job out in the workplace, even if your dad is your boss, is another altogether.
So I hired her. Lily worked two to three mornings a week this past summer filling divots on the fairways. Although she only worked about six to 10 hours a week, she was able to save some money (she’s saving for a snake of all things!) and, more importantly, experience her first time punching a time clock.
There have been studies conducted showing that teens who work (but work less than 15 hours a week) actually get better grades than kids who don’t work at all. Having a job as a teen also helps develop a better sense of responsibility, as well as a stronger sense of individuality. Earning money also teaches teens the basics of managing finances.
As far as my experience hiring my daughter, it was a complete success. And I say that not only as a superintendent being happy with a worker, but a dad being proud of his daughter. I need not have worried about the work ethic I questioned. She was task-focused and hardworking each time out and trying to fill more divots than her previous day.
By the end of summer, she had more than tripled her morning divot filling.
Now I just have to talk her out of that whole snake buying plan.