With summer here and school out, you would think that there are a lot of jobs available for teens over the summer. That does not seem to be the case. Even with pressure being put on employers by a tight job market, with Daviess County's unemployment sitting at 2 percent, the number of high school and college age students working does not appear to be growing.
Daviess County's economy relies heavily on agriculture, but most of the old farm jobs where students used to work are not there anymore. They have either been replaced by mechanization or, as is the case in many of the fruit and vegetable fields, professional harvesting companies. The Washington Times Herald last week published two large help wanted ads looking for farm harvest help, but many of those jobs will run into December.
"There have been a lot of changes in the farming business," said Ron Arnold, president of the Daviess County Economic Development Corp. "A lot of what used to be summer work for teens has disappeared."
One place that does employ a lot of summer help is Waterworld of Washington. The city pool has 25 employees and almost all of them are college or high school students. The thing is most of those jobs are filled long before the pool opens.
"The hiring begins in March," said Assistant WOW Manager Madison Murphy. "We have our staff finalized in early May. The lifeguards have to be Red Cross Certified, but we also have about a half dozen people that work the desk and concessions who do not have certifications."
Murphy says one of the keys to getting hired is to apply early and have a flexible schedule.
"We only had about 30 people formally apply for jobs this year," she said. "Our staff is very young, but we try to hire people who will be around most of the summer. If you are someone who is taking off on vacation a lot, you might not get the job."
For many high school and college-age students getting the time for summer jobs is becoming increasingly difficult. Sports, and in particular specialized travel teams, are taking up a lot more time than in the past. Conditioning and camp schedules also limit some student's ability to work.
The other challenge for summer jobs is that students are more and more using the summer to catch up or try to get ahead on their education. In 1985, the number of students involved in summer school was less than 20 percent. By 2007, that number topped 50 percent and it has continued to grow.
Some businesses and professional organizations have replaced some summer jobs with internships that pay little or nothing but give the student a line on the resume they can use toward getting into a graduate school or finding a job after getting a diploma.
"The universities in the area are always pushing for internships," said Arnold.
The Indiana Department of Workforce Development does not track summer jobs, but it does know there are some islands where they are very important.
"We keep an eye on the hiring at places like Indiana Beach and Holiday World," said Dave Shotkowski, director of Communications with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. "We know when those businesses open there are a lot of summer jobs."
Defining "summer" though is becoming increasingly difficult, and that alone may be a reason that summer jobs are so hard to find. "Summer" in the past run from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Now with high-stakes testing required by the state, schools are moving the start of school forward to get as many classroom days as possible in to prepare the kids. The result is a summer off that used to last 10 to 12 weeks is more like eight weeks now. "That may also play a part," said Arnold. "It is difficult to get someone up to speed in that short of a time."
Despite the issues, students might still be able to locate summer work outside of the usual fast food and retail jobs.
"If they run out of ideas they can try indianacareerconnect.com," said Samantha Bobbitt, executive director of the Daviess County Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau. "That site can be beneficial if you are looking for something outside the box. Other valuable resources are the Work One office and Premier Staffing on East National Highway. At times they are alerted to jobs that may not be listed on the website or in the newspaper because they have just been announced."