R-Jeneration: Finding a job ticket to freedom for teens

The sounds of beeping, yelling and sizzling meats fill the air. The smell of cooking oil and other aromas waft from the back of the restaurant. The taste of American fast food fills the bellies of hungry patrons of the Burger King. And Kevin Varga is at the center of it all.

Varga is just one of the millions of teens who work at a part-time or full-time job. He's a junior at Advanced Technologies Academy, and he works after school and weekends for $8.25 an hour so he can do things outside of school, such as go on dates with his girlfriend or go to the movies.

"It's nice to have some money, even if it's just a little," he says. "Plus, I'm saving for college." His goals include attending either the University of Nevada, Las Vegas or the University of Nevada, Reno.

Varga says he's happy to be employed. More teens are unemployed than not, with many fast-food jobs going to older people who have been laid off because of the recession.

"I'm by the far the youngest person at my store," he says. "There is no one else who fits my age group."

He says the next youngest person is in his 20s.

The work isn't all bad though. Varga enjoys his job.

"Aside from the pay, the work isn't that hard," he says.

Working at low-level service jobs is common for teens. It provides them an opportunity to gain work experience before they go to college and/or leave home.

A recent Las Vegas Review-Journal story reported that the teen job outlook appears to be a little better this year than in recent years.

But an unscientific poll of more than 200 students at Advanced Technologies Academy found that only about 40 percent of eligible teens had jobs.

Robin Concepcion is always "running." He's a runner for Cashman Photo Enterprises. He assists the cameramen in a variety of ways, and it's a busy schedule. "I work full time Wednesday through Sunday. It's not eight hours a day, but close," he says.

He's worked there 17 months, and the money he's earned is going to advance his dreams for college. "I would move up to printer from where I am," he says. "A printer is kind of like the manager."

Unlike Varga, he's not out of place. Concepcion said that several high school students and a few people in their first years of college hold the same position.

"Kids these days" is a phrase every teen has heard, and every teen hates hearing. However, that phrase has real-world consequences for David Vaughan.

Vaughan, 17, has been looking for a job since May 2010 with no success.

Of all the applications he has submitted, he didn't get any calls for an interview. The process is taking a toll. Vaughan's lack of job interviews has been demoralizing. It's a lot of work for little return, he says.

Among things he has noticed, when looking for jobs, are age limitations and restrictions.

"A lot of places don't take kids under 18," he says. "That was pretty terrible."