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 Ten-year-old Dalton  McConkey, of Clawson, is a  well-known entrepreneur in his neighborhood, pushing his equipment to each lawn care job.

Ten-year-old Dalton McConkey, of Clawson, is a well-known entrepreneur in his neighborhood, pushing his equipment to each lawn care job.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

Are part-time jobs still part of adolescence?

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published August 14, 2019

 Katie Sullivan, 19, of Royal Oak, has been working  part time as a dog sitter during her summer break from Oakland University.

Katie Sullivan, 19, of Royal Oak, has been working part time as a dog sitter during her summer break from Oakland University.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

METRO DETROIT — Is a part-time job a rite of passage for students, or a thing of the past?

If you ask Jonnie Jackson, it’s actually a lost art. She’s the executive director of the Jermaine Jackson Community Center in Mount Clemens and a mom of two boys. The desire for young people to get out and earn some cash during time off from school just isn’t there like it used to be.

“They don’t want to work. They want to be home playing video games,” Jackson said. “Michigan Works! used to send us job listings (for the kids at the center), but they stopped because there weren’t any kids who wanted jobs.”

The video games sure are distracting for Dalton McConkey’s friends. The 10-year-old Clawson student started a raking business a couple of years ago with his buddies in the neighborhood, but one by one they all walked away from the venture.

But Dalton kept at it.

After the raking season was done, he transitioned to shoveling snow, and in the summer he did all kinds of lawn maintenance. This year his parents decided he’s old enough to handle a lawn mower, and it’s a common sight for Clawsonites to see the young entrepreneur hauling his business around the neighborhood, pushing the mower with one hand and pulling the rest of his equipment in a cart with the other.

“It was definitely his idea from the beginning,” said Dalton’s mother, Denise McConkey, who said she tags along on every job to keep an eye out.

“It grew really slowly, so we decided to create a flyer for him, and he got some more customers that way. And then in the spring it really just took off. We’re so proud of him. It’s really so inspirational.”

Dalton said he hopes to keep the business going into the school year as his schedule allows. After all, he likes being outside — and he definitely likes the moola.

“(My friends) just want to stay home and play video games, and I don’t like (video games) that much. I’d rather be out making money,” he said. “I bought myself a bike and a blower with the money, and I’m just sort of saving the rest up.”

Saving for the upcoming school year has been Katie Sullivan’s mission this summer. The 19-year-old Royal Oak resident just finished her freshman year at Oakland University, and as a nursing student, she knows her schedule is only going to get more rigorous. She wants to make some money dog sitting this summer while she can.

“I usually go to clients’ houses, and I’ll go in the morning and let them out and then run errands if I need to. If (the job) is nearby, I can fill in at a T-shirt shop near me if they need help, and then I can go back at lunch and walk the dogs if they’re good on a leash,” Sullivan said.

Next summer, as part of her degree program, Sullivan said she’ll need to earn credit by working in a hospital. And she’s not alone. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of students seeking part-time jobs has been on the decline since the early ’90s, and the drop accelerated after the Great Recession of 2008, when jobs that were available went first to adults in need of work.

Add to that the increasingly high pressure and busy schedules that students carry — between internships, sports, extracurricular activities and a shorter summer vacation — and there just isn’t much time left in the day to pick up a job.

“Both of my sons, one is 20 and one is 12, are athletes. They’re always in the gym. That’s their passion. So I don’t make them get jobs, but I do make them do chores and help around the house,” Jackson said.

Even the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Department is feeling the sting of teens stretched too thin. Manager Sue Wells said the system’s two wave pools opened later than normal this season because there weren’t enough young people to suit up and take lifeguard jobs.

“The whole school calendar has changed. We typically open the water parks on Memorial Day weekend, but even that’s changed because school isn’t even done until almost late June. And they start back up the week before Labor Day,” Wells said in an interview in July. “Sports have become a year-round endeavor, so a lot of them are doing some kind of summer conditioning with their team. And there’s more and more emphasis on workplace experience for college students.”

But there are still some young people who want to bring home a paycheck, so even though Jackson said the state doesn’t offer job listings to her, she keeps an eye open in her committee to see who is hiring, and she posts those opportunities at the community center.

Or you could wait and see if Dalton’s lawn care business has any openings. If you can reach him, that is.

“I would love to have him take the business over, but I handle a lot of things for now. He doesn’t have a phone yet, and we’re putting it off for as long as we possibly can,” Denise McConkey said.