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June 11, 2021

Kids, can't find a summer job? That's 'cause adults took them all

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Earlier this spring – as I often do – I found myself at the local Quiznos, hunkered down and making sweet, sweet love to my 12-inch Chicken Carbonara on whole wheat. Hold the mushrooms.

Over at the next table sat a woman, in her 40s, being interviewed for a position by the restaurant’s manager. Noting the two teenagers working behind the sandwich counter, I thought this was a little bit weird.

After she got up to leave, I jokingly asked the manager, “Hey, does she have a shot?” Yet what he dead-panned back was a telling sign of the times.

“You’d be surprised how many (older applicants) we get nowadays,” he said, matter-of-factly. “With the way things are now, they’re more likely than someone who's 16 to do the job and do it the right way. They realize what’s at stake.”


A few months ago in this space, we talked about how teens were in for a rough season of employment as Canada entered its first summer of the recession.

But after I read this story, I immediately recanted that Quiznos story and think I finally know where all the summer jobs are going …

… Old people are stealing them!

Alright, they’re not that  old, but as the job market continues to stifle teens, it’s become apparent that more and more summer gigs traditionally tailored toward students are being scooped up by, well, full-grown adults.

The trend has even spawned step-by-step strategy guides, like one on appropriately dubbed “How to Steal a Job from Teenagers.”

In case you think I’m joking, try this on for size: when looking for a job like, for example, becoming a summer lifeguard, Mainstreet recommends the following:

“’You definitely want to go (into the interview) with the most youthful appearance you can project,’ (career coach Robyn) Feldberg says. She suggests job seekers keep their wardrobe up to date and grey hairs hidden.”

Sound ridiculous? It is a little. But while the list – which advises adults such wisdom as “be prepared for skepticism” – seems more obtuse the more you read, it does a poor job of seriously highlighting how rough the recession has been on some.

Sure, youth employment is terrible (in the U.S., the unemployment rate recently hit 22.7% and only an estimated 30% of kids aged 16-19 have jobs), but who ultimately needs the money more, adults or teenagers?

As the Quiznos manager spelled out, no employee can better exhibit an appreciation for paid work now than the laid-off adult or single mother who’s fallen on hard times.

I suppose, then, it’s simply tough luck for students looking for some extra cash this summer. It may be a sad sign to see a grown man waving a Little Caesars sandwich board around to support his kids, but I think we’d all agree that it’s probably better he – and not some 15-year-old applicant – at least has the opportunity to make ends meet.



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...