Teenagers are choosing to study over Saturday jobs, new report suggests

By Amelia Butterly
Newsbeat reporter

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The pressure of exams and lack of opportunities mean fewer young people are taking on Saturday jobs than ever before, a new report suggests.

The number of 16 and 17-year-olds working while studying has more than halved since 1996, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) says.

Only one in five has a part-time job while in college or doing A-Levels.

"Exams were my priority," says Rebecca North, 18, who has just finished year 13 and applied to go to university.

"I didn't feel that I could set time aside to work as well as revise, do school and still have time for hobbies and socialising."

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She says the last two years have been "stressful" and that she was worried that a part-time job would jeopardise her grades and the chance to go to the university of her choice.

"I do feel sometimes I'm scrounging off my parents but for me education is really important and I didn't feel I could compromise that," Rebecca adds.

Tyger, who is 16 and has just finished his GCSEs, spoke to Newsbeat while out shopping in central London.

"I'm too lazy to study and work at the same time," he says, explaining he has spent most of his spare time focused on playing sport.

But both UKCES and employers say that people like Rebecca and Tyger may actually be harming their chances by focusing on academic courses - or sport - instead of getting work experience.

Fiona Kendrick, CEO of Nestle UK and Ireland and Commissioner at UKCES, commented: "It seems that young people are actively shunning the idea of working while studying, as the fear of not doing well pervades our society. Yet this could be a short-sighted tactic, as we know from employers that experience of the world of work is their number one 'ask' when recruiting.

"Millions of young people are lacking the experience of the world of work that will help them find jobs in the future," says Ms Kendrick.

"Work is important. Studies are important. But one should not preclude the other.

"It's about getting a good balance to give yourself the best chance."

"When we look at employing people full-time, we need rounded CVs," says Helen Webb, HR Director at the retailer Co-op.

"We look for graduates who haven't just got a fabulous degree, we look for A-Level students who haven't just got great results, we need rounded people coming to work in our industry."

She says one of the best ways to get the broad experience so many employers are looking for, is to get part-time work while studying.

"I would always say to a young person, work experience is really important," she explains.

"If an employer has to make a decision, to choose who to take on, then they will be looking for people who've experienced the workplace and understand what responsibilities that brings."

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Rebecca acknowledges that she may "be disadvantaged" in the future because she hasn't had paid work as a teenager.

"I did apply for a couple of jobs at the beginning of the school year where it wasn't as full on work-wise, but it is very competitive," she says.

"A lot of [applications] are online and you never hear any response and even the ones where you get to interview stage, which is great experience, it's quite an exhausting process."

Annabel, 17, is studying full-time to be a legal secretary and also works part-time at a bar during the weekends, which she says funds her trips to the shops in central London.

"It's hard to find jobs at the moment," she says. "It took me a year to get my job."

But she thinks people her age should try to find some employment while they're studying.

"You've got to make time. I think it's a bit lazy [not to have a job]," she says.

Both Rebecca and Annabel's experience is backed up by the report from UKCES, which says that one in seven of those who choose not to work while they study say that there is too much competition for the work available.

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Ms Webb says Saturday and part-time jobs at the Co-op can attract a lot of applicants.

"We'd normally expect to get somewhere in the region of 30 to 40 people applying for a job like that so I appreciate there is competition, which is why I think young people have to make their CVs stand out," she adds.

The lack of cash has also affected Rebecca.

"You get [money] for helping out around the house and birthdays but especially with things like driving lessons, I feel like it would be beneficial to have this extra money and it's certainly an incentive which is why I know that there are friends of mine that do work," she says.

"But for me I just didn't think it would fit into my... life to work, even part-time."

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