Great Ways for Teens to Build Skills This Summer

Summer is a great time for your teen to build his skills. Here's how

Great Ways for Teens to Build Skills This SummerSummer’s fast approaching and your teen may already be burned out by classes and studying for exams. But the school break offers endless opportunities for teens that may be too young for a traditional summer job — age varies by province — to beef up a resume through courses, volunteering or participating in a government-sponsored work/learning program.

boost qualifications

“I always knew I wanted to be in aquatics,” says Nicole Acton, a 15-year-old from Guelph, Ont. With this goal, she raced through all the Red Cross swim levels so she could try the Red Cross Assistant Water Safety Instructor Course when she turned 15 (the minimum age). During the summer, she completed the course and volunteered in the pool for two weeks. “I really liked getting to know the kids and watching them progress,” she says. Now she’s in high demand as a part-time assistant instructor and plans to take the plunge to part-time work this summer.

More ideas: Take a St. John Ambulance first aid course (visit for info and locations) or a babysitting course through the Canadian Red Cross (

co-operate on a committee

To score future job connections and learn teamwork, join a committee that looks for a youth perspective. At 14, Alex Miller joined the Guelph Youth Council to advocate for and plan community activities involving youth. “It’s much more interesting than it sounds,” she says. “It’s a lot of fun.” As a group they launched and promoted a youth drop-in centre and skateboard park. “I also learned how to contact the media about programs,” says Miller. Tempted by teamwork? Check out committee listings at your local community or volunteer centre or online listings at

More ideas: Help plan a dance, fundraiser or summer fun fair for a non-profit group.

learn to lead

Love camp but too young to work as a counsellor? Most day and sleepover camps offer leader-in-training programs, sometimes for a fee. Miller was a leader-in-training (LIT) for two summers at Camp Sunrise — a riding camp in Puslinch, Ont., that integrates campers of all abilities. “You don’t just get training about kids; you get training for life,” says Miller. She’s learned skills ranging from adapting activities for kids, to horsemanship, to how to write an effective resume. Plus, all LITs receive a report card grading them on how well they work and communicate with kids. “It’s great for future job applications,” she says. Plus: teens 17 or older with a stellar reference can usually snag a staff job.

More ideas: See for a searchable database of summer camps in North America.

start a business

At 16, Eric Trombley spotted a poster at his high school advertising “Summer Company” — an Ontario government program offering start-up business funding for students aged 15 to 29. He submitted an irresistible business plan for a sweet idea — Mr. Twister Fresh Cotton Candy. And he was granted the funding. His first summer, Trombley spun sweet treats at birthday parties and farmers’ markets before scoring a gig at a huge Cambridge Canada Day bash. “You can’t beat the feeling of being your own boss and setting your own hours,” he says. Three years later, he has a thriving business that now includes snow cones, ice cream, popcorn and party decorating. “It’s paying for my college tuition,” he says. See for details on the program.

More ideas: Go to for more government youth opportunities across Canada.

Amy Baskin is a Guelph, Ont., writer and mom of two teens who can’t wait for summer.

skills for school

If your teen is thinking ahead to college or university, extra-curricular experiences can help her qualify for impressive scholarships. According to, of the 7,363 individual scholarships listed in its Entrance Awards directory in 2004, 631 required some sort of extracurricular activity and 615 required some sort of leadership role.

Keep reading for more great summer experieneces for your teen.

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