Are Teens Cashing in on a Booming Summer Job Market?
June 16, 2021
Things are looking very different from a year ago when it comes to the summer job market. There were very takers of the few jobs that were available last summer due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. A lot of businesses had restrictions in place, so indoor dining may have been off limits, therefore reducing the need for staff and the need for teen summer help. Places like amusement parks were either closed or had limited hours and days open. Parents also didn’t want their children subjected to the unknown with COVID. Fast forward to Summer 2021 and it is a different picture. With COVID cases decreasing thanks to vaccinations, things have reopened to full capacity and that has been great news for teens, including college students.
A recent article published by the New York Times has Kennywood, an amusement park in West Mifflin, just outside Pittsburgh in Allegheny County, raising their starting wage for high school graduates from $9 to $13 and free season passes this summer. Nick Paradise, Director of Communications for Kennywood, told me they raised the pay rate so it would be more enticing to older teens and college students to work there because it has become a more competitive job market for the summer. “It’s more desirable not having to rely on 14-17 year-olds as much this year. There is more flexibility and more experience and that provides a better experience for our customers. The labor market is more competitive. We are open more hours and more days and we needed higher quality team members. Raising the pay scale was the way to do just that,” he said. Paradise said they are in pretty good shape right now as far as hiring goes but the hiring process never stops.
Knoebels Amusement Resort, Elysburg, Northumberland County, have positions that include free admission to not only their establishment but to other amusement parks and resorts across the state like Hersheypark, Camelbeach and Kennywood. They also offer scholarships and other discounts.
Then there is the flip side. Businesses offering incentives but still not many takers. Dutch Wonderland, Lancaster, Lancaster County, recently told WGAL News that they were having a tough time getting employees, despite offering incentives like higher pay. They aren’t alone. Help wanted signs are all over businesses like the McDonalds in Dickson City, PA, with signs that read “$15/hr all employees.” The Boathouse Restaurant, which is near Lake Wallenpaupack, Tafton, Pike County has a notice on its Facebook page posted June 3 that states that until further notice, they will be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and “We would love to be open 7 days a week again - if anyone knows of anyone looking for work please contact us, we are urgently hiring.” Lake Wallenpaupack is a favorite summer destination for locals as well those from neighboring Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey and some even having second homes there. Being short of help now during the busiest season and reopening has set the stage for the perfect storm for places like The Boathouse and Woodloch Family Resort, Lackawaxen, Pike County. “We are having the same problems. We have a number of positions open. We have advertised everywhere including billboards, print, email, radio, staff referrals, job fairs, local high schools. We are in a rural part of Pennsylvania and don’t have a lot of people to start with with the pandemic,” says Erica Bloch, Associate Director of Communications for Woodloch. “We try to hire high school and college students for the summer. The numbers aren’t what they usually are. Staff capacity is approximately between 60-65%. We have openings for servers, housekeepers, kitchen staff and a smattering of other departments. Some people are hesitant to work because of the pandemic. Then there is the extra unemployment and there isn’t a need for people to go back to work. There isn’t one specific thing.” There are also sign-on bonuses for some jobs that range from $100-$400 and that includes Woodloch Pines, Woodloch Springs, which offers golfing and The Lodge at Woodloch, a spa resort. “Summer is the bread and butter for us. We are hopeful as things get back to normal, the numbers will climb (in employees),” Bloch said. She said they are operating at 75% capacity and have some social distancing to help keep people comfortable. Another factor that Bloch mentioned for the staff shortage is the halt of the J1 Exchange Visitor Visa. It is a nonimmigrant visa for individuals approved to participate in exchange visitor programs in the United States. She said they do hire international employees for the summer.
She did mention again the direction things were slightly taking, “The needle is moving slightly and there are encouraging signs. There are more people in our training. The opportunities to grow are here, “ she said. Bloch herself rose through the ranks of different departments, including marketing, to where she is today.