March 30, 2007
Special to The Seattle Times
THE SEATTLE TIMES
Worried about getting aced out of summer jobs, Shorecrest High School tennis buddies Marco Dehmel and Doug Jambor devised their own doubles plan: a tennis racquet-stringing business they call "D-Jam."
That move already puts them ahead in the teen job game.
Across the region, thousands of 14- to 18-year-olds eager to land summer employment typically begin their job search about now – often during the free-from-school-stress days of spring break.
But it won't be easy. National teen-hiring figures show youth employment has settled near a 57-year low.
In King County, nearly 10,600 fewer teens were landing jobs in 2003 than in 2000.
Though it's still too early to know whether teen hiring will be sunnier than the bleak summers of the past few years, there are some bright spots in the forecast.
Teen Job Search – Places to Start
High-school counseling/career centers
Teen Opportunity Expo (TOE) Summer Employment Fair: Nonprofits and local businesses hiring for summer are accepting résumés and meeting youth job candidates April 25 at Kent Commons. Details: City of Kent Parks and Recreation Department at www.ci.kent.wa.us/teens/employment.asp
Teens in Public Service: Seattle-based nonprofit group that screens and places 15- to 19-year-olds in paid community-service internships for minimum wage. 206-985-4647; www.teensinpublicservice.org
Teens4Hire: Free, membership-based employment site for young adults 14 or older at http://teens4hire.org.
Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County Youth Initiatives program: Look for programs that help disadvantaged youth. www.youthatwork.info/pdf/ youthatwork.pdf
WorkSource Seattle-King County: www.worksourceskc.org
YouthatWork: Job search engine for teens at www.youthatwork.com
Bureau of Labor Statistics Teen Summer Job Safety campaign: www.osha.gov/SLTC/teenworkers/
Local experts say retailers and food-service providers, internships and self-starters businesses like D-Jam all show promise for teen employment.
No matter the outlook, youth-employment experts say now is the time to start applying.
"Spring break is a good time for students to make sure they have an updated résumé – because they're going to need that for scholarships and colleges, anyway," says Lori Jacobs, adviser for Lake Washington High School's award-winning DECA chapter of marketing and business students.
Jacobs encourages students at the Kirkland school to use their days off to write a cover letter, arrange references and practice a job interview with parents. Before and after spring break, she encourages teens to check job postings often listed in high-school career-counseling centers.
High-school career counselors and DECA advisers typically are among the first to know about openings, Jacobs says.
A 10-year educator who worked 16 years in retail sales before becoming a teacher, Jacobs thinks DECA students have an edge with employers because of their proven track record in retail and business courses.
Local Macy's stores, she points out, made positions available to DECA students under 18 for the first time this last winter.
In South King County, the city of Kent links local employers with ready-to-work teens during its annual Teen Opportunity Expo (TOE) each spring.
This year's Expo April 25 at Kent Commons already has attracted 30 potential employers, including G.I. Joe's, Fred Meyer and White River Amphitheatre, according to program coordinator Brian Rockwell.
Average teen summer salary 2005
"We like to say it takes a big TOE to get your foot in the door of a job," Rockwell says. "Businesses like it because it's a way for them to collect applications from serious candidates in one spot."
But not every teen who applies will find a job.
That's why Jambor and Dehmel like being their own boss. The two began promoting D-Jam by word-of-mouth among their high-school and tennis-club teammates and placing an ad online. They buy their own supplies and charge half of what professionals would ask.
"And we charge less for the girls' team," adds Dehmel, "because we are nice."
At the end of the week, it's still not a big paycheck, Jambor says, "but if you're going to take any job, I think you have to like it."
And while cash counts, Jacobs encourages students to realize that money isn't everything. Becoming a self-starter and growing entrepreneurial skills is valuable, too.
"I also see more and more students asking me about internships – paid or unpaid," Jacobs says. "If students can afford it, many of them recognize that it can be important to invest your time for a job that doesn't pay much or anything now, but will pay off in the long term."
Lynne Miller, communications and training coordinator for WorkSource Seattle-King County, agrees.
"While entry-level jobs may not always pay as much as we would like, they provide opportunities for young people to learn and demonstrate a variety of skills and abilities, including reliability, leadership, initiative, interpersonal communication," Miller says.
Some of the teens who already recognize this are among the dozens of candidates applying to Teens in Public Service (TIPS) – a local nonprofit agency that places 15- to 19-year-olds in community-service summer internships for minimum wage: $7.93 per hour.
TIPS has grown from 11 nonprofit employers when it started 10 years ago to almost 60 this summer – and earning a placement is competitive.
Last year, says TIPS director Katie Earley, more than 220 teens applied for 54 openings. She expects even more applicants when this year's April 6 deadline arrives.
"We're looking for teens with all different backgrounds – not just students who have perfect grades with all sorts of awards and honors," Earley says.
Chi Nguyen, 17, an Evergreen High School senior in Burien, was hired by TIPS to work about 30 hours a week last summer for Treehouse, a King County foster-child group.
"I ended up doing a variety of things, from tutoring kids to helping foster parents shop for donated clothing at The Wearhouse," Nguyen says. " ... I was given a lot of responsibility. It was a challenge and I got to make so many decisions. I just loved it."
That, believes Earley, is the key to not only TIPS' success, but youth employment.
"Teens want meaningful work that gives back to the community," says Earley. "They just need to be passionate about it and make the most of any opportunity they get."
|How many, and what they pay|
|King County teen hiring (based on 2005 wages before 2007 increase to $7.93 minimum wage)|
|Summer Job Gain||Job||Base pay|
|Source: Washington State Employment Security Workforce Explorer|
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