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Too much work can be harmful to students, but the Sauder research shows any job up to 43 hours a week during the summer has positive results.

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The Globe’s bimonthly report on research from business schools.

Landing a summer job is a rite of passage for tens of thousands of Canadian teenagers every year.

Whether flipping burgers or minding toddlers at a wading pool, seasonal temporary gigs are a great way for teens to earn a little money during the school break.

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But researchers at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business say there are more rewards to be reaped by this novice work force than just a paycheque. According to study co-author Marc-David Seidel, a Sauder associate professor and expert in employment issues, teens who work for the summer are more likely than their unemployed peers to land good jobs and earn more money later on in their careers. The pattern also holds true for young workers who maintain part-time employment during the school year.

“For instance, those who worked year-round at the age of 15 had a higher chance of being employed at 17 to 21, had higher incomes at ages 17 to 25, and at ages 21 and 23 had higher-quality job matches,” Mr. Seidel said in an e-mail.

In particular, the study found working teens gain a competitive advantage in the labour market by acquiring valuable soft skills, such as better time management, more valuable networks outside of their circle of family, friends and school and refined job-hunting abilities.

Teens further benefit from learning early on what they like to do – and, critically, what they don’t like. That, in turn, “enables them to be matched to better-fitting work environments,” the study concludes.

The research focused on 15-year-olds entering the work force and draws from 10 years of employment data collected by Statistics Canada.

Mr. Seidel says the team set out to test some of the previous assumptions found in income inequality literature that suggest adolescent or “teen” labour is a societal problem. Some scholars in the field believe the stress of working and time spent away from family is unduly harmful to young people.

“We wanted to check if there were certain circumstances where such work was actually beneficial for the development of the adolescent, [and] we found evidence that it can be,” Mr. Seidel said in the e-mail.

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Researchers acknowledge there are conditions where teens suffer, particularly working too many hours. According to the study, positive results over the long term came with teens who worked up to 43 hours a week over the summer, or 33 hours a week during the school year.

“The key is that under certain conditions it can, in fact, be connected with positive later life outcomes,” Mr. Seidel said.

The study is co-authored by Marjan Houshmand of the University of Hawaii and UBC PhD student Dennis Ma. It’s published in the Research in the Sociology of Work journal.

Story ideas related to business school research in Canada can be sent to darahkristine@gmail.com.



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