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In My Opinion

Jobs for teenagers are an investment


For every story we hear of teenagers who don’t want to work, for every employer who refuses to fire a young person who doesn’t show up for a work shift because there’s just no one out there better to take their place, I give you the case of 16-year-old Rose Lambert.

A Hastings High School junior, Rose started working at the Hastings 4 Theatre and has loved the job so much she told the Banner last week she considers it her “happy place.” Rose worked 20 hours per week through the summer and now works a 15-hour schedule as she continues her high school studies.

Despite her love for and dedication to the job, Rose was sad to learn recently that she and another teenage employee will be losing their positions due to a new company policy being imposed by Grand Rapids-based Goodrich Quality Theatres, owner of the Hastings 4 and 29 other movie theatres in Michigan and four other states.

Because some of those theatres will now be selling alcohol, Goodrich Theatres has enacted a new policy stating that it will no longer hire employees under 18 years of age.

On the surface, the new policy is perfectly understandable. State employment law adopted under the Youth Employment Standards Act states, in short, that minors – like 16-year-old Rose Lambert – cannot be issued a work permit “in, or in connection with a part of an establishment where alcoholic beverages are sold or processed unless food or other goods constitute at least 50 percent of the total gross receipts.”

The difficulty for me – and one that Rose is pointing out herself – is that the Hastings 4 does not sell alcohol. Only 14 of the 30 Goodrich operations in Michigan serve beer, wine and other alcoholic drinks in their theatres. She says she understands the reasoning behind the overall decision, but she’s frustrated because, according to Hastings 4 managers, the theater is too small to serve alcoholic beverages. So why not make an exception to the new hiring policy for the smaller theatres?

It’s disappointing to me that corporate decision-makers didn’t take into consideration the fact that they could continue to offer positions to younger kids as long as the establishment had no intentions of selling alcoholic beverages at the Hastings theatre.

When Bob Goodrich, owner of the theatres, announced his 2014 campaign to seek the Democratic nomination for U.S. Rep. Justin Amash’s Third Congressional District seat, he said he planned to focus on the lives and concerns of the individual citizen. He went on to mention that leadership is more than just asking someone for their support, it’s about “listening to their story and figuring out solutions for the difficulties that many face every day.”

Must be that Goodrich forgot his message of listening and solving problems for individuals. In this case, he and his company have remained silent on turning their backs to faithful and enthusiastic teenage employees like Rose Lambert. In doing so, Goodrich Theatres is not only making life more difficult for the individual, it’s cashing out on a community’s opportunity – and responsibility – to develop its next generation.

Teenagers often times start learning the value of work in their own neighborhoods with jobs like babysitting, shoveling snow, cutting grass and doing various odd jobs for those who have a need and who recognize the virtue of developing young people. When they reach the age of 16, young folks are more likely to have regular jobs, working in retail and service sectors, where the employment becomes more formal.

The Youth Development Study, a long-term, ongoing longitudinal study that followed middle adolescence through early adulthood, found positive traits, including independence, responsibility, interpersonal skills and a strong work ethic from kids who had jobs at a young age. Adolescents tend to report higher levels of satisfaction when working and held similar beliefs as their parents about the benefits of employment.

Recently I received a letter from a former newspaper carrier for our Battle Creek newspaper.

“In 1991, when I was only 11, I begged my mom to let me get a route that I shared with my older sister,” the letter read. “After several years of saving, I was able to save up enough money to buy a scooter. Then a friend of mine let me know he was giving up his route so I convinced my mom to let me take his route over. I kept both routes for the next six years until I graduated from high school. With the money I earned I was able to accomplish several of my goals, such as paying cash for my first car on my 16th birthday. Later, I was able to sell that car, and buy a better one that got me through college. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to achieve my goals and create an avenue to gain the life skills that continue to serve me today.”

It’s not unusual to hear people tell the stories of their youth and mention that the first job they had was delivering newspapers. For years, the job offered kids a way to earn money, to learn responsibility and other lessons that, as they look back now, confirms their knowledge that those first teenage jobs made a big difference in how they turned out.

My granddaughter is a high school senior who works two jobs and still maintains good grades and participates in extra-curricular activities at school. By working, she’s been able to purchase a car, have money to spend on herself and learn about saving.

Teens who work learn the value of money and what it means to earn a dollar. The work experience allows them to learn practical job skills that can help them as they go to college or directly into the job market. Teens also get an opportunity to experience new interests and talents, which might help them discover what they really want to do the rest of their life.

Pushing and allowing students to consider work and supporting them in every way is all part of investing in our youth, something we all must be willing to do. Congratulations go to Rose Lambert in her quest to save her job.

“I shouldn’t be losing my job because of my age,” Lambert said. “I have never called in and I come in when needed.”

That should mean something to Hastings 4 theatre owners. If nothing else, it shows that Rose cares about her job, takes it seriously and is even willing to fight for it. It also shows lack of good management when the rules become more important than finding a dedicated workforce that in the end will be more valuable to the corporation than to some silly rule.

Let’s step up and invest in our next generation – especially when it’s eager and willing to contribute.




Fred Jacobs, CEO

J-Ad Graphics, Inc.






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