Business

Monday, Apr 08 2013 05:07 PM

Teens seeking summer jobs compete with adults

BY LAURA LIERA Californian staff writer lliera@bakersfield.com

Sunny days. No school or homework. Vacation for two months. It sounds nice, but what if you're a teen seeking a summer job?

With unemployment in Kern County at 13.6 percent in February, the most recent month for which data are available, the race for teens to find a job seems tight.

"If it's difficult for adults to land a full-time job during the year, when it comes to teens getting a summer job, it gets super competitive," said Karen Briefer-Gose, supervising department analyst for Career Services Center, a recruitment and training center for employers and job-seekers.

Briefer-Gose said that over the past few years, it's been tough for teens to find work over the summer.

"You now have adults that are applying to jobs that used to be seen as 'teen summer jobs' like working at fast-food restaurants or at the mall," she said.

But a local youth service employment department still holds onto hope for youth summer jobs.

"One of the things I always tell students is that they have to have patience and not give up when they hear a 'no' from a job they wanted," said Karine Kanikkeberg, resource teacher for career and workforce development at Kern High School District's Career Resource.

She added, "And they have to spread the word that they want a job and just continue to check up on applications they have submitted."

The good news? More youth landed jobs in summer 2012 than the previous year.

The number of youth ages 16 to 24 employed during the summer rose to 19.5 million in 2012, which is 2.1 million more than the previous year, said Jim Borbely, economist for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the bureau doesn't make predictions for the future.

"The youth labor force grows sharply between April and July each year and that's because a lot of students search for summer jobs, or college graduates begin to look for permanent employment," Borbely said.

Jobs are out there.

This spring, Valley Plaza mall is opening more stores, and the opportunity for employment is high.

"It's a great opportunity for high school students to get full-time or part-time positions during the summer," said Kristi Jackson, marketing manager at Valley Plaza. The mall currently has a regional occupational center that employs high school students during the year.

"Students take trade school classes and also do internships with different retailers that work with the center so it works for retailers and for employees," she said.

Another local employer currently looking to hire is the McMurtrey Aquatic Center. The center has been recruiting lifeguards since January, said Terri Elison, recreation supervisor. The center is looking to hire 50 lifeguards this summer.

"We have never been able to hire as many lifeguards as we would want to," Elison said.

The main reason is many students don't complete and pass certifications that are needed to be considered for the job.

"We realize that the exams aren't easy, but we work with students in advance that are really interested in being a lifeguard," she said.

"We are aware of the cost of these certifications, so I know it can get expensive but if they commit to it, they can be walking out as a lifeguard and having a job for the summer," Elison said.

Some students have landed jobs, while others continue their hunt.

Bakersfield High School student Jose Gutierrez, 16, is excited for his first job this summer at Papa John's Pizza.

"I know it's going to be awkward at the beginning since I have no idea how to make a pizza, but I know it will be fun because it's my first job and this gives me a sense of independence and responsibility at my age," he said.

Patience is something that 18-year-old Alyssa Amaro is having trouble keeping, after being notified that Tony's Pizza had already filled its summer positions.

"Hearing that 'no' over the phone is a letdown," Amaro said last week. "But I applied to Subway, Target and I'm going to go this afternoon to Burlington Coat Factory to submit an application because I really need a job to help my family and myself."

Amaro is not alone in wanting a job this summer. BHS senior Jennifer Valencia, 17, is looking for any job in retail or commercial stores because she needs to save money for college.

"I didn't get financial aid or any California grants for college, so I am stressing out because I know I'm probably going to take out loans and I don't have a job yet," she said. "I am applying to jobs this month and hopefully I get good news so that I can be prepared for what lies ahead."

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