Slim pickins’ for summer jobs
April 17, 2009
It’s that time of year again. Students are eagerly anticipating a summer devoid of obligations and their parents are vehemently demanding that they search for summer jobs. This year, however, the "I can’t find a job" excuse may not be far from reality for local teenagers.
In a seasonal, tourism-based town like Park City, finding summer work suited for the 14-to-18-year-old demographic can be tricky. And in tough economic times, the growing pool of applicants vying for a limited number of positions can make things even trickier. Teens who set out on the job hunt in the impending months may find that they are up against a new breed of jobseekers: better-educated, more experienced adults who are desperately seeking a source of income.
Statistics from The Park Record Classifieds department demonstrate a drastic shift in Park City’s job market over the past year. In March 2008, the total number of Help Wanted classified ads topped 400. Last month, the monthly total fizzled out at 90. In other words, a year ago there were at least 300 more positions available to those looking for work.
In past years, high school students have banked on finding summer work at local restaurants, retailers and recreation facilities. But in the current economic climate, employers in the service industry may not be hiring for slower months, and businesses that recently ended their contracts with seasonal workers may not be planning to replace them.
On the other hand, it is difficult to gauge how hard Park City has been hit by the economy. While some business owners are reporting a dismal season, other say they have scarcely felt the impact of financial turbulence. For teenage jobseekers, the secret may be in knowing where to look.
Teri Maloney, general manager of Baja Cantina restaurant, which is located at Park City Mountain Resort, says that the economy hasn’t slowed them down. "I anticipate a busy summer," she says, adding that she will soon begin hiring for various positions, including several bussing and hosting positions for those younger than 21. Since the restaurant opens its patio during warmer months, Maloney says its workforce actually increases once the ski season is over.
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Maloney expects to receive a large number of applications for positions once the hiring process begins, but she doesn’t think teenagers will be facing fierce competition from their jobless adult counterparts. "I don’t anticipate older people taking jobs that would ordinarily be reserved for high school kids," she says. "At least I haven’t seen that yet."
Recreation Supervisor Karen Yocum reports a different scenario at the Park City Racquet Club. Summer positions for lifeguards, swim instructors and day-camp counselors are traditionally filled by high school students, she says. But so far, she has received six applications for two camp positions, and all of the applicants are older adults. "From what I’ve seen, there is definitely going to be a lot of competition for these types of part-time jobs," she says.
The Sunglass Hut at the Tanger Outlet Center in Park City has been hiring for a part-time sales associate position for the past six months. "In these times, I feel like I’m able to be a lot pickier about who I hire," says Manager Leslie Tippets. Since posting a help wanted ad on Craigslist, Tippets says the response has been overwhelming. "I’ve gotten a huge response from a variety of people of all ages," she says. "Some don’t have any experience and some are extremely overqualified." One application that caught her eye was from a former mortgage agent, she says.
In scenarios such as this one, in which the employer has plenty of prospective employees to choose from, the odds are stacked against high school students. Adults looking for long-term work are preferred over teenagers who are going to leave in three months, says Tippets. Employers may also be skeptical about teenagers’ work ethic and level of dedication. "With younger applicants, I am definitely going to ask a lot of questions about responsibility," says Tippets.