In just a month, the school year will be finished and dozens of Graham's youth will likely be seeking summer employment.

According to a 2012 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics study, the number of 16- to 19-year-olds employed or searching for work in the U.S. last year skyrocketed between April and July, increasing by almost 2 million workers for a total of more than 7.3 million in July 1.

Appropriate employment gives teenagers the opportunity to learn to take responsibility for the job, as well as for the money they earn, while teaching them the value of work and possibly even some skills that they will use throughout the rest of their lives.

Although parents, guardians or other influential adults may be assisting the teenagers in their job search and then in their employment venture, some kids may be out their own their own, figuring it out as they go along. In all cases, those involved need to understand state and federal laws regarding child labor.

For example, in Texas, certain child labor laws apply to different age groups and different job types. Children who are 14 or 15 may perform office and clerical work, some kitchen work, cashiering, bagging and carrying out customer orders, among other tasks, as long as it takes place during certain hours. Children who are 16 or 17 can perform work for any number of hours, as long as it is not deemed hazardous by U.


S. Department of Labor.

But, allowing teenagers to work shouldn't interfere with their education. Parents, employers and anyone else with influence over the kids need to remind them, that until they graduate, schoolwork comes before the job. Although some may be tempted by the idea of a full-time paycheck, the young workers need to understand that failure to complete their education could have long-lasting effects on their careers.

According to the BLS, between October 2011 and October 2012, 370,000 young people dropped out of high school. The labor force participation rate for recent dropouts (47.2 percent) was lower than that for recent high school graduates not enrolled in college (69.6 percent). The jobless rate for recent high school dropouts was 49.6 percent, compared with 34.4 percent for recent high school graduates not enrolled in college.

Additionally, full-time workers age 25 and over without a high school diploma had median weekly earnings of $457,     compared with $651 for high school graduates (no college) and $1,189 for those holding at least a bachelor's degree.

The most important things to remember are that, although teenagers are allowed to work, they and their employers need to follow the laws and the kids need to continue with their education, both for the sake of their future employment and for their wage potential. We all need to encourage that.