Teens and Students: Help for Your Company When You Need It

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Teens and Students: Help for Your Company When You Need It

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By Sallie Hyman


Affordable help can be difficult to find for small businesses, especially when only part time or seasonal help is needed. Several sources for this help include teenagers, interns and foreign students. These potential employees can bring with them enthusiasm, eagerness to learn, and a vast wealth of untapped knowledge.

When hiring teen employees, think beyond what they can do at the cash register or stock room. Teenagers and young adults are in touch with the latest trends and youth culture that can help a business get a pulse on what’s to come. They are also experts in social media and technology and can help businesses expand their marketing platforms (think Instagram, SnapChat), become familiar with the Cloud, or help with website design.

Small business owners need to be aware of the regulations governing the hiring of teenagers. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a good resource, as is the Youth Rules website that is geared at parents and teenagers. The rules are rather specific and include:

No worker under 18 may:

  • Operate a forklift at any time.
  • Operate many types of powered equipment like a circular saw, box crusher, meat slicer, or bakery machine.
  • Work in wrecking, demolition, excavation, or roofing.
  • Work in mining, logging, or a sawmill.
  • Work in meat-packing or slaughtering.
  • Work where there is exposure to radiation.
  • Work where explosives are manufactured or stored.

    Recent changes in the law state that minors under 17 may not drive a motor vehicle; 17-year-olds may drive occasionally, if they meet certain requirements.

    Also, no one 14- or 15-years-old may:

  • Bake or cook on the job (except at a serving counter).
  • Operate power-driven machinery (except certain types that pose little hazard such as those used in offices).
  • Work on a ladder or scaffold.
  • Work in warehouses.
  • Work in construction, building, or manufacturing.
  • Load or unload a truck, railroad car, or conveyor.

    For young workers between the ages
    of 14 and 15, work hours are as follows:

  • Not before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m. between Labor Day and June 1 and not after 9 p.m. between June 1 and Labor Day.
  • Not during school hours

    Maximum hours when school is in session are as follows:

  • 18 hours a week, but not over:
  • 3 hours a day on school days
  • 8 hours a day Saturday, Sunday, and holidays


    Maximum hours when school is NOT in session are as follows:

  • 40 hours a week
  • 8 hours a day

    By law employers must provide:

  • A safe and healthful workplace.
  • Safety and health training in many situations, including providing information about chemicals that could be harmful to your health.
  • For many jobs, payment for medical care if you get hurt or sick because of your job. You may also be entitled to lost wages.
  • At least the minimum wage of $7.25/hour to most teens, after their first 90 days on the job. Many states have a higher minimum wage than the federal wage. Lower wages may be allowed when workers receive tips from customers, provided that the tip plus the wage is equal to minimum wage. (Call your State Department of Labor listed in this guide for information on minimum wage in your State or visit http://www.dol.gov/whd/minwage/america.htm.)

Interns are another source of eager, educated, and often free help. Internships can be paid or unpaid. The determination of whether an internship or training program can be considered unpaid depends upon the following six criteria:

  1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment.
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern.
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff.
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded.
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

If all of the factors listed above are met, an employment relationship does not exist under the FLSA, and the
Act’s minimum wage and overtime provisions do not
apply to the intern.

Internships should have a formal structure with a written plan regarding intern qualifications, scope of duties, and learning goals. NASE Member Council member Gary Gygi, President of Gygi Capital Management in Cedar Hills, Utah, concurs that the internship should be formally structured.

“We recently had a not as positive as anticipated experience with an intern,” he says. Gygi’s firm offered a paid internship. “I think it was partly not having the right candidate and partly not having the program and expectations well outlined from the start.”

Interns expect to learn about your industry and to benefit from your experience. They are hoping to gain college credit and a foot in the door of their chosen profession. You will expect interns to be interested in what you do and be eager to learn. This means that you need to carefully screen intern candidates to ensure they are a good fit for your business. Gygi says he is definitely interested in trying the internship program again, but will define the program from the outset and offer a larger salary.

Not all interns are going to be at the same level, but that is ok. You can benefit from them all, whether it is the latest information brought from their recent course work, general enthusiasm, or good old-fashioned hard work.

An often overlooked source of affordable help are foreign students. These students are here on F-1 or J-1 visas that allow for employment under certain conditions. The work must be within their area of academic study and is limited to a certain duration of time.

Practical training is a legal means by which F-1 students can obtain employment in areas related to their academic field of study. Students, in general, must have completed one academic year (approximately nine months) in F-1 status and must maintain their F-1 status to be eligible for practical training.

Exchange students enter the United States on a J-1 visa. Practical training is called “academic training” for J-1 visa students. International students on J-1 visas are eligible for up to 18 months of academic training. Post-doctoral students are permitted three years. Some J-1 program participants are also allowed to work part-time during the academic program.

Despite what employers think, it is not difficult to hire foreign students. Fortunately, there is little paperwork for an employer who hires F-1 or J-1 students. All paperwork is handled by the students, the school, and Citizenship and Immigration Services. There are no fees involved.

Gygi is a fan of hiring foreign students. “All of our foreign student hires have been extremely hard working and have extra drive. I think they sense the opportunity they are given and seize it,” he says, but cautions that there are a few hurdles for businesses. It is very important to know the laws and to know whether the student will require a sponsor.

Hiring foreign students can actually save an employer money. These employees are subject to applicable federal, state, and local taxes, but they are exempt from Social Security and Medicare tax requirements. And, of course, foreign students are eligible to take unpaid, voluntary internships as well.

Again, look to these students for more than just menial labor. They can provide you with a cross-cultural assessment of your business, inform you regarding the trends in your industry in their country, and perhaps also give you insight into the benefits of diversity.

Finding affordable help for small businesses can be a challenge. Finances are always a concern, yet it often takes extra help to make the business successful. Fortunately there is a pool of affordable and often free employees ready and willing to make your business thrive.

Employing teenagers and interns allows small businesses to have the manpower they need at a price they can afford. In turn, these employees can bring a wealth of youthful enthusiasm, the latest knowledge direct from educational institutions, and of course, their tech-savvy expertise that can be a life-saver for many businesspeople.

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