Although the unemployment rate is at a 17-year-low, I am noticing that fewer teens seem to be “on the job.”

Some of this is because the unemployment rate for summer jobs is stagnant; some is undoubtedly because of minimum wage hikes that make it harder to find entry level jobs.

 However, in my area and based on my observation, it appears summer jobs are losing out to academic enrichment, pricey extracurricular camps, or commercial ACT/SAT test preparation.

Be it the the minimum wage, stagnant market for teens, or academic enrichment; the bottom line is this: I am hard up for recruits to mow my lawn or baby-sit my daughter.

I am probably biased. But throughout my high school and college years I baby-sat, mowed lawns for neighbors , worked a pool-side concession stand, and most enjoyably—worked as a camp counselor. So I look askance at young people who are able to devote their entire summer to ACT/SAT test preparation, special interest camps, or a laundry list of volunteer work when they have never actually earned a pay stub.

As a high school teacher, I have noticed a new focus for teens to spend their summers on academic enrichment, volunteer work, or commercial test preparation courses in lieu of the summer work youths traditionally held. However, academic focus need not suffer due to a teen’s part-time or summer job. I found the following prescient quote by Paul Harrington, an education professor and director of the Center for Labor Markets and Policy at Drexel University, by way of Market Watch. Says Harrington:“Work is a strong complement for going to school. It predicts improved employment experiences and higher wages and reduces the likelihood of future unemployment.”

Work is also a strong complement for life. People learn from experience, (though admittedly, stubborn fools tend to not learn from experience.) It is difficult to understand money and budgeting until you have earned the money directly from your own work. It’s difficult to understand that sustained, gainful employment is generally about meeting other people’s needs and demands—not your own, if you have only ever volunteered or attended art camp.

My advice for teens? Get a job. Make a difference—start with personal finance. Mow my lawn. Allow a neighborhood mom a chance to enjoy some peace and quiet with one less kid around. It’s worth your effort. I will pay you.