LAUSD Students Work Soul-Crushing Retail Jobs For Free In The Name Of Education

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Depressing retail job (Photo by ArtWell via Shutterstock)

LAUSD students looking to get a few extra credits have an interesting option: through the district's retail merchandising class, students can gain real-life, first-hand experience in the depressing world of retail without getting paid a dime.

Through Regional Occupational Programs, LAUSD students can learn skills like carpentry, computer design, fashion and culinary arts—which actually sound like fun and interesting way to gain credits, learn some unique skills and maybe test the waters for a promising career. But then there is the retail merchandising class, which understandably is gaining scrutiny, KPCC reports.

Students get set up to work in places like Sears, JCPenney, Best Buy and Party City. They spend 12 hours a week in large soulless chain stores. They don't get any money for their time, and they're mostly from low-income families. Here's how KPCC says the students got stuck with this bum, unpaid job:

Some students say counselors advised them to take the retail class, and they didn't question them. Others said they urgently needed the credits to graduate this year, and retail was one of the few choices available. Most of those interviewed didn’t expect to attend college and others had no plans for life after graduation.

Steve List, who teaches the Best Buy and Party City classes, has a rosier view: he says that while students may not get paid, many of them are able to get jobs at the places later. Some of the students in his classes this year got hired on during the busy Halloween season for minimum wage weekend shifts. List says, "They’ll learn marketing skills, sales skills, cashiering skills, display skills. We work on resumes, job applications."

All skills that the typical retail worker usually picks up on the job, while getting paid minimum wage.