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Teens now competing with laid-off adults to find work
Lanier Career Academy student Summer Smith, 17, has been working at the Bruster’s ice cream shop in Gainesville since last summer. Smith was unsuccessful with a recent search for a second summer job. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Teen summer tips

Tired of your unemployed teen playing couch commando? Here’s some ideas to get them active:

Find a mentor: Teens and their parents can seek out a mentor — a family friend, business or community leader — who will voluntarily help the teen learn their business or assist them at work any way they can. This opportunity should be scheduled, like any job, to keep your teen engaged. He or she would continue to learn new things and gain valuable experience for the future.

Volunteer: There are numerous nonprofit organizations, churches and community centers in desperate need of volunteers now more than ever. For volunteer ideas, check out the United Way Web site,

Assign a project: Parents can offer their teen an important task to do at home, and pay them a little for it, too. Whether it’s painting the garage or planting a garden, it needs to be done well. Teens can gain self-esteem when entrusted with an important project at home.

Source: Malcolm Gauld

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Many parents are keeping their fingers crossed hoping their teenagers will peel themselves off the couch and find a job this summer.

Unfortunately for mom and dad, the odds of teens landing a job are against them.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in May that nearly 24 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds who have been looking for a job for the past four weeks are unemployed. That’s the highest national youth unemployment rate since 1992, according to the federal bureau.

Last July, the recession was already taking a toll on young adults looking for work, as 14 percent of those ages 16 to 24 were job hunting then. In contrast, only 9.6 percent of youth were unemployed in July 2000, which marks the lowest summer youth unemployment rate since 1969, the bureau reported.

Jone Taylor, recreation division manager for Gainesville Parks and Recreation, said the department employs dozens of teens during the summer as lifeguards, concession stand workers, ticket booth workers and counselors for summer camp programs.

Taylor said teen applicants for lifeguard and assistant counselor positions flooded the department this spring. And they’re not the only ones applying to work at day camps and the Frances Meadows Aquatic and Community Center.

"We’ve gotten a lot more applications this year," she said. "We’ve seen more ‘real adult’ applicants."

Following a year filled with layoffs in the corporate, service and industrial realms, Taylor said she’s seeing more people who have held professional careers in recent years seeking jobs typically held by teens.

"We’ve seen more teachers apply for camp positions since there’s been so many layoffs," she said. "A lot of people are looking for a job, any job."

Taylor said she knows at least four teachers who are now working as counselors at the Gainesville summer camps. She said teachers occasionally have applied for counselor positions in years past if they were seeking extra money during the summer.

Taylor said a camp counselor must be at least 18 years old. While she could not compare statistics to last year, teens now hold 10 of 34 jobs at the camps. And 40 out of the 57 lifeguards at the Meadows Center are teens, she said.

There’s also fewer summer camp jobs this summer. Taylor said Gainesville Park and Recreation was able to offer three instead of four camps this summer due to funding constraints.

Andrew Aubuchon graduated from Gainesville High School in May and is spending his summer days as a lifeguard at the aquatic center. Despite the hard time others may have had finding a job, Aubuchon said it hasn’t been too hard for he and his friends to land a summer job in Hall County, but he did start looking early.

"I knew it’d be kind of hard to find a job, so I started looking during spring break in April," he said. "Most of my friends have found a summer job so far, but some aren’t looking at all."

Aubuchon said some of his friends are passing their lazy summer days on trips or lounging by the lake.

Stacy Reimer, who owns and manages the Bruster’s Real Ice Cream on John Morrow Parkway with her husband, Nick Ditta, said she relies on teens to staff the ice cream shop.

"There’s only two old folks here, me and Nick," she said. "I have about 11 kids from 14 to 20 working here."

Reimer said more students than usual who worked the shop last summer returned to claim their positions again this summer, and she was unable to hire as many new teenagers.

"It should be pretty bad because this year … I think I’ve only hired three people. And usually I hire six to eight more for the summer and start hiring in February or March to get geared up for the summer, but teenagers were coming as early as January this year looking for jobs for the summer. I’ve never had so many coming to me looking for jobs. It’s because everybody’s hurting and there aren’t as many jobs available."

She said with teenagers pounding the pavement this winter trying to track down summer jobs, those who weren’t as forward thinking may be left in the lurch.

"There’s going to be a lot of them who are going to have a hard time if they didn’t jump on the bandwagon early," she said. "And because minimum wage is going up to $7.25 an hour on July 24, you’re going to have to pay those kids that."

Summer Smith, 17, is a rising senior at Lanier Career Charter Academy and works for Reimer at Bruster’s. She has been working at Bruster’s since Memorial Day last year, but has been looking for a second job for the past few weeks. She said she’s trying to earn money to fund her own summer adventures, and saving to buy a car.

Smith has applied to Wild Wing and Target so far, but has yet to hear anything back, she said.

"It’s so much harder to find a job this year," she said. "I didn’t think it would be this hard."

Smith said it seems not many businesses are interested in hiring teens, or anyone at all these days.

Reimer said she encourages kids to keep beating the bushes for summer work.

"I think because of the lake and they’ve got vacation Bible school and stuff, there’s plenty of opportunities for young people," she said. "They just need to look a little harder to find those opportunities this year."

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