The outlook is promising for teens searching for summer jobs this year. But those who wait too long to apply might be out of luck.
Ben Wagner, marketing coordinator for Columbus Parks and Recreation said teens are a huge part of the department’s summer workforce. He cautioned students against waiting until school is out to apply because most positions likely will be filled by then.
“We are in the midst of hiring our seasonal employees right now,” Wagner said. “We try to hire earlier because we like to be ready for summer and we also need to train some workers and that can take about a week.”
The parks and recreation department hires about 180 seasonal workers each summer, including lifeguards, concession workers, referees and umpires, playground workers and skateguards at the ice rink.
Ceraland Park hires seasonal workers for its busy summer season and Business and Marketing Manager Beth Dawson said they also like to hire early.
“We usually employ about 60 youths; half are high-schoolers and half are college students,” Dawson said. “We consider them all customer service attendants, but they work in a number of areas, including sports and fitness, the front gate, miniature golf and we have a handful of outdoor maintenance positions as well.”
Most companies hiring summer help plan to have the positions filled by the end of May, according to a survey of 250 employers by the job site Snagajob.com.
Jason Hamilton, vice president of marketing for Snagajob, said teens that are concerned about a lack of experience, should focus on other positive attributes that seasonal employers look for.
Work the numbers
Statistics from a survey of 250 employers in the retail, hospitality and food-service industry by the job site Snagajob.com
Employers that anticipate hiring summer workers this year.
The number of summer workers the business expect to hire, on average.
Employers that plan to have the positions filled by the end of May.
The average hourly wage employers expect to pay summer help in the Midwest.
The federal minimum wage, which is what Columbus area employers say is the starting wage for most teens looking for a summer job without previous experience.
“Focus on how you can portray yourself as positively as possible and demonstrate that can-do attitude for employers because that’s the most important thing they look for in seasonal workers,” Hamilton said. “The second-most important thing is availability, so just have a flexible schedule.”
Snagajob specializes in finding less-skilled people to fill hourly positions, so young people are attracted to their site.
The summer employment survey indicates 74 percent of employers in the retail, hospitality and food service industries plan to hire summer workers this year and most of them will be new employees.
“If returning worker stats are going down, there are more opportunities for new employees and that tends to benefit young workers,” Hamilton said.
While many of the positions will pay at or near minimum wage, there are opportunities for teens to make a little more.
“It really depends on past experience, and if someone has done a good job for us in the past we will offer to hire them back with an increase in pay,” Dawson said.
Musillami’s Drive-in on Jonesboro Road has been around since 1957.
As a seasonal, warm-weather business, the company has hired a lot of teens over the years.
Owner Mike Musillami has brought on two new high school students this year, but said, unlike some other businesses that hire summer workers, many of his employees come back year after year.
“When they get out of school and find a full-time job, younger family members will take their place,” Musillami said. “This is a very popular place and we get a lot of applications.”
Neal Andis, 18, has worked at Musillami’s for five years and said it is a great place for students to work.
“It really is like a big family here, they have a very flexible work schedule and the tips are good, said Andis, who leaves for the U.S. Navy in October. “What’s not to like?”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2.8 million teens found formal summer employment in 2013, an increase of 13 percent from the previous year.
Indiana Youth Institute CEO Bill Stanczykiewicz pointed out that those statistics do not include teens whose summer work is not reported.
“We also know there are numerous kids who create their own jobs and that teaches a whole range of skills as well,” Stanczykiewicz said.
Jobs such as mowing lawns, baby-sitting and pet care often involve cash transactions that are not reported as income.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics report also indicates the number of teens who wanted to work in 2013, but were unable to find it, was down 17 percent from the previous year.
Hamilton said when the economic downturn was at its worst, many summer jobs, normally filled by teens, were taken by out-of-work adults. Now that many of those people have found work again, there are more seasonal jobs open for youths.
Stanczykiewicz said the experience teens acquire in summer jobs also is very valuable as they prepare to enter the workforce full-time.
“Not only are they earning dollars, they are actually learning business skills,” Stanczykiewicz said. “If they are starting their own summer business ... they are putting together a business and marketing plan, they are putting together a budget and developing an understanding of how to communicate with and recruit customers.”
Teens looking for summer work can check online employment services or focus on key employers that hire summer help regularly, such as restaurants and hospitality companies.
“Watch for help wanted signs, and even if a business isn’t advertising for help ask if you can fill out an application,” Stanczykiewicz said. “It lets an employer know that you are willing to knock on doors to get a job and shows you are really interested in working.”
Ceraland and the parks department also rely on word-of-mouth referrals, so classmates also can be a good job source.
High school students often compete with their college counterparts, who usually get out of school earlier and have an experience advantage, so starting the search early is key.
“If you want a job this summer, the time to act is now,” Wagner said.