Younger Workforce in Maine PART 1

LEVANT, Maine (WABI) - Earlier this year, a new law took hold immediately broadening the kind of work that teenagers are allowed to do.

It lets students 14 or 15 years old work in areas such as movie theaters, amusement parks, and hotels.

Alyssa Thurlow took a closer look to see if many students are using the work permits to their advantage...

"I've always been working for my family and stuff, so this is just another opportunity."

For Emily Dearborn, working has always been a way of life.

"It's a lot of hard work. It's a lot of patience I guess. You probably don't want to work some days, but you just have to."

At 15, she's homeschooling and putting in her 20 hours a week at Treworgy Family Orchards in Levant, thanks to a work permit.

"I think people younger than 16 should be able to work. I mean, I don't think we really need a work permit."

According to the Maine Department of Labor, students 14 and 15 years of age may work in most businesses, with proper permits.

Jonathan Kenerson, CEO of Treworgy Family Orchards says that they employ 80 to 90 people in a given season, with almost a dozen of them being under the age of 16.

"For us it makes sense to hire a number of young workers because they generally have really good availability and often have never done work before, so they're generally willing to do things that some of the other people who have been in the work force wouldn't want to do."

Kenerson says employing teens lets them invest back into the community, while giving their employees a few extra pennies in their pockets.

"There's something about doing real work where you can see the difference that you've made at the end of the day, knowing that you're part of a team, knowing that you're valued as part of a team that builds real confidence and real skills that is critical for young people."

For students 14 or 15 years of age and wanting to work they would have to obtain one of these. we spoke with the superintendent for Bangor schools to see how they make that happen.

"What we want is a strong, educated work force that helps drive our economy and that people have pathways so that they have great success in their future."

Bangor School Superintendent Betsy Webb says the district sees many students under 16 looking to obtain a work permit every year.

But, she says some are choosing different routes.

"Although there are some students under 16 that do seek a workers permit and they're successful working. I know I have some students that work in farms or in restaurants and they do well, I think there are many students given the amount of activities that they are involved in in school, it would be difficult."

The Department of Labor predicts that folks will have 14 different careers over the course of their life span.

That's why many administrators says it's crucial for students to participate in job shadows and internships, so they can get a better idea of what career path they will choose.

"There is not one path that is right for everyone, but as an educator, I constantly think about, so how do we make sure that they have all those skills so that they can choose any pathway that works for them."

As for Dearborn, working on a farm is just a minor step in the right direction for her career, and she thinks that others her age should take full advantage of what's available.

"I think anyone could start working at a younger age than most people are, like starting at 16 or 17. I don't think we should be waiting that long. I think if you have the opportunity you should just take it."