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Published: Monday, June 21, 2010, 12:01 a.m.

Summer work scarce for youth

Young adults are going head to head with college students and experienced adults for low-paying jobs.

  • Stadium Flowers manager Kelsey Weaver (left) helps new employee Megan Sweeten with a display of roses Tuesday afternoon.

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    Stadium Flowers manager Kelsey Weaver (left) helps new employee Megan Sweeten with a display of roses Tuesday afternoon.

Over a few weeks, Kelsey Weaver received 250 applications, including one from an electrical engineer, for a minimum-wage position at Stadium Flowers.
“You see a lot of way over-qualified people,” said Weaver, a manager at the store in downtown Everett.
The job went to Megan Sweeten, 21. She said it was her top choice, despite the commute from Seattle.
“I can’t even count how many places I applied,” Sweeten said. “I was happy to get a call.”
With job opportunities scarce, competition is high, and many young people are preparing themselves to compete with college students and adults for low-paid and part-time jobs.
“Two years ago, employers would hire anybody breathing, because there was a need,” said Cynthia Burns, who manages programs for out-of-school youth at the Center for Career Alternatives.
Unemployment in Snohomish County might have fallen this year, but it is still close to 9 percent.
“It’s been hard for our age to get jobs because all the adults that are getting laid off are taking the minimum-wage jobs,” said Trevor Mercier, 19, who works at the Everett Mall.
Mercier is a first-year student at Edmonds Community College who found his job through a personal connection.
Trish Roberts, career specialist at Cascade High School, said most of her students who found jobs did so through a personal connection. Those without connections, she said, feel they need to be better prepared. She’s noticed an increase in students coming to her career center for help with resumes, applications and interviews.
“More and more students are trying to have an advantage over other students,” Roberts said.
Two of her former students, now college graduates, are working as baristas at Starbucks. Roberts said high school students are finding it more difficult to find hourly-wage positions, like at retail stores in the Everett Mall.
Barbara Elder, career specialist at Everett High School, used to have a notebook in her career center full of job opportunities for her students. Now, the notebook is empty.
“It seems like we had more outside agencies calling (a few years ago),” Elder said. The number of employers calling has dwindled steadily since Elder joined the school in 2001.
“Now it seems they’re not calling,” she said.
Staff members at the Center for Career Alternatives in downtown Everett use their connections in the community to put together a packet of “hot jobs” in the area. Even with their connections, finding jobs recently has been challenging, said Cynthia Burns, who manages programs at the center for out-of-school youth.
While jobs are scarce, young people can gain work experience through volunteer programs or internships, suggested Curtis Takahashi, who manages youth programs at Workforce Development Council Snohomish County.
Youths should develop workplace skills such as punctuality, good appearance and effective communication, he said.
“Students need to develop these skills working with each other, working with other people,” Takahashi said.
Burns believes that half the battle for young adults is just getting their applications read.
“It’s those strategies and those steps that go a long way toward getting youths hired,” she said.
The Workforce Development Council also oversees WorkSource Snohomish County, an employment services organization that offers job fairs and other resources to out-of-work adults.
Libraries offer other programs for job seekers. The Sno-Isle library system recently received grants to fund a job database, work skills tutoring, classes and other job search resources.
“All of these resources are really (for) all ages,” librarian Jackie Parker said.
High school career centers provide help with applications, resumes and interviews, as do career centers at local colleges. Youths who have dropped out of school can get the same resources at the Center for Career Alternatives in downtown Everett.
Last month, Takahashi organized SummerPalooza, a summer job fair for young people. He wanted to introduce internships and volunteer work, as well as summer jobs, to youths who couldn’t find work.
“My thought was, ‘Let’s still make this a productive summer,’ ” he said.
Even grant money has been hard to come by. Some federal funding, including the Summer Youth Employment Program, has not come through this year, Takahashi said. That economic stimulus project funded job skills training for young people.
However, Workforce Development Council expects more funding soon.
“We’re hopeful,” Takahashi said.
Story tags » Jobs


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