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Teen job prospects brighten for summer
Employers see lack of soft skills
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Summer job applicants that have been hired at a Lake Lanier Islands job fair line up to complete paperwork. - photo by Tom Reed

While some kids think of summer as a perfect time to work on their tan and enjoy a much-needed vacation, a growing number of high school and college students are using that time to make themselves more attractive to future employers.

According to the Georgia Department of Labor, teen unemployment for that age group dropped to 29 percent for 2011 from 36.3 percent in 2010.

“I think the market in general is improving for them,” Tim Evans, Greater Hall County Chamber of Commerce vice president, said.

Evans said there are a number of employment options available to teens in the area, many in the tourism industry.
“They’re not necessarily the highest-skilled or highest-paying jobs, but it’s a good way to make some gas money,” Evans said.

Christine Wade-Curry, work-based learning/youth apprenticeship coordinator for Gainesville High School, helps students learn the skills they’ll need later in life by getting them apprenticeships and internships with area employers.

While about half of her 60 students are paid for their time, she said most don’t care about the money because the experience looks good on their resume.

“When you have a career and you enjoy what you do, you don’t mind going the extra mile,” Wade-Curry said.

Wade-Curry said the job experience the program provides is invaluable. In many cases, it helps students narrow down their interests just in time for college.

But maybe more importantly, it teaches them responsibility, work ethic and communication skills.

Employers look for those traits when hiring and complain that today’s teens are lacking in such soft skills, she said.

“Some employers today are concerned about the lack of polished work ethics that they sometimes will see with young people,” said Sam Hall, Georgia Department of Labor director of communications.

Hall said it is very important for teens to be on time, dress appropriately and be able to communicate with the employer.

“There is a national survey that shows 93 percent of employers are more likely to hire people who have more developed, more honed soft skills than experience in the job they’re applying for,” Hall said.

Teens can overcome their lack of experience by being aware of the impression they are making on an employer.

One of the easiest ways to make a good impression is to wear appropriate clothes. Hall said a good rule of thumb is to dress one step up from the job you’re applying for.

More than 700 people, most of them youths, applied for summer jobs Saturday afternoon at the Lake Lanier Islands Resorts’ job fair.

Sandra Simon-Grindy, director of human resources at Lake Lanier Islands, said she had about 400 jobs to fill. She said she expects to hire about 85 percent of the company’s seasonal employees from the applicants at the event.

She said the main trait she and other managers look for when hiring youths is their willingness to learn and an aptitude for serving the resort’s guests.

“As the younger generations make it into the workforce, you’re seeing that their definition of customer service is very different from other generations’ customer service,” Simon-Grindy said. “Going that extra mile for the teenager, and what it means to them, isn’t maybe what the definition means to most of us.”

Teens learn through observation, she said; they learn quickly and they adapt to their work environment.

“They’re trainable and that’s the beauty,” Simon-Grindy said.

Steven Albrecht was hired for a second season at the resort as a lifeguard supervisor. He said he notices his peers’ lack of experience, too.

He knows that he’ll have to take extra time with new hires and show them the ropes.

“Obviously, the only way to get that is to work a job. It’s just something that comes with it,” Albrecht said.

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