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Ice Cream vs. Industry

Workforce Development

By Kirstyn Quandt, Communications Manager, NCCER

For me, it was ice cream. I spent summer after summer scooping, sprinkling and secretly celebrating the messed up sundaes as I devoured them with my coworkers. While such summer jobs did set me up with inevitable disappointment for lunch breaks to come, there are many great skills to be learned from a summer spent in the food service industry like great communication and teamwork. But what if there was a summer job that offered the same fundamental skill development along with legitimate career training at no expense of a healthy paycheck? Fortunately, there is; it may just not be in the industry you’re thinking.

Consider a summer spent in construction: swapping out your apron for a hard hat and exposing yourself to an environment that fosters hard work, hands on training and the ability to build a career-ready skill set. Not only do these employment opportunities pay well, but at the end of one work day, the training you have received and the industry-specific knowledge you have gained, makes you marketable in an industry booming with opportunity.

As much as I wish cookie dough connoisseur was part of my daily job description, not all summer jobs prepare us for the technical aspects of our future career path. Most individuals find themselves choosing summer jobs for the sole purpose of a paycheck. Until internships are encouraged to pad our resumes with applicable experience, we simply choose something that interests us- i.e. discounted ice cream and the smell of freshly made waffle cones. Of course as teenagers we don’t expect to also gain a healthy dose of reality as we wake up for the 10:00 am “early shift,” but at the end of the day, we take jobs as waiters/waitresses, grocers, nannies and retail sales associates to have our own money and a sense of independence.

All of our lives we’ve been taught that high school, college and a summer internship are the necessary stepping stones to a steady, successful career. However, the path isn’t one size fits all. Instead, there are many avenues allowing individuals to explore a variety of careers even before high school graduation.

Jenny Anderson describes the classic summer jobs best in a “Quartz” article when she writes, “…jobs like scooping ice cream or flipping burgers, where no kid is too special, they actually earn money, and they get to see life through a radically different lens.” This same mindset applies to a summer spent in the construction industry. Not only will you build a diversified skill set and sound work ethic, but after just one summer, you’ll look at every grocery store, apartment complex, power plant and bridge with a new sense of admiration and respect. That’s a summer job worth waking up early for.

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