In many parts of the nation, employers are courting young workers, upping hourly wages in hopes of tapping the elusive teenage work force.
Yet in Utah, the majority of young workers continue to work at minimum wage. And those are the lucky ones; many teenagers simply can't find work."Unfortunately, at Job Service we don't have the staff to get out and beat the bushes for summer job listings," said Virginia Byrd, placement supervisor. "Job orders have been slow coming in this year, and we really need the employers' help now to place the students who are applying."
As of June 30, Byrd said, the Salt Lake Job Service had placed approximately 450 high school and college students, and the agency still averages 15 or more students a day looking for summer employment.
"Many kids want what they consider the attractive jobs, such as working in an office with computers, retail sales or recreation type jobs," Byrd said. "We talk to the youth about the reality of the job market and we encourage them to be practical in their aspirations."
Byrd said they explain to the kids that starting work at the beginning of the summer at an available minimum wage job could mean $500 more than holding out for a `better job' with a higher wage.
"We tell them every job has opportunities to learn some skills that can be used later on, and not to overlook the service jobs that are more readily available," she said. Many people who apply for such service jobs as teens work their way into management and develop lifetime career opportunities.
"I love to hire youth for summer employment," said Clark Stringham, owner of six McDonald's restaurants. "And I am looking to hire more for my soon-to-open seventh store."
Stringham said while the national average for employee turnover in fast food restaurants is well over 100 percent, his turnover rate is slightly over 50 percent.
"We try to build a sense of pride into each individual store, and that raises the probability that the kids will stay longer," he said.
Jim Mcfarland, store director of the Wasatch Blvd. Smith's Food King, said when hiring baggers he feels the GPA is not as important as what the student has done in school, such as class president, vice-president, or any leadership position.
"These kids exude an air of self-confidence and the customers can pick up on it," he said.
He said he also likes persistence. "The student that comes in, fills out an application, then comes back several times to see if there is an opening yet. Or the student that comes in dressed like a bagger in a white shirt and a tie. That says to me, he's done his homework and he's ready to go to work."
Kristen Sroczynski, a 16-year-old junior at Judge Memorial, said she was hired on the spot when she applied for a job at Hogle Zoo.
"I went prepared. I dressed neatly, took a pen and my social security card. I'm active in Job's Daughter's, sports, and I will play the lead in next year's school musical. I feel those were assets that helped me," she said.
Several local employers agree that many young people don't know how to present themselves during a job interview. Showing up late for the interview, not carrying a pen to fill out the application, dressing inappropriately, using poor grammar and chewing gum during the interview are some of the problems employers see with young hopefuls.
While many employers just disregard such applicants, Raging Waters general manager Paul Mix said his company takes a different tack. "We have started a program where we go out to local high schools and give seminars on how to apply for a job and how to effectively present themselves during an interview," he said.
"We stress the importance of paying attention to the interview, sitting up straight and answering all questions clearly and with enthusiasm. And most important, don't chew gum during an interview," he added. "We teach kids to create in the prospective employer's eyes an image that will make them unique from the others applying for the same job.
"We tell them to dress neatly, send a thank-you letter for the interview and that a warm friendly handshake is more impressive than a cold, clammy one," he said.
Job Service in Salt Lake also conducts a daily Youth Job Search Workshop which provides not only job information, but teaches skills necessary in applying for the jobs.