Brad Hjelmar of Glenville got a jump on applying for summer jobs this year.
Several months ago, the 17-year-old started filling out applications. He applied to Hannaford, Price Chopper, Jumpin’ Jack’s, McDonald’s and two Dunkin’ Donuts locations but never heard a word back from any of them.
“I thought I wasn’t going to have a job,” the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School senior said.
Teens across the region and the state are facing similar frustrations.
As of April, the state unemployment rate for teens stood at about 27 percent, said Mike Saltsman, research fellow at the Employment Policies Institute, a nonprofit research organization.
“The interesting thing about New York too is that New York is one of a couple of states that had a high contingent of what we call discouraged teens. These are teens that would like to work but haven’t actively been looking for a job because they feel that one isn’t available. So when you add in the discouraged teens, New York’s unemployment rate jumps from 27.2 percent to 29.2 percent,” he said.
Lisa Scaccia, director of Saratoga County’s Department of Employment and Training, said she sees many teens struggling to find work. Well over 100 have already applied for the 70 to 88 minimum wage jobs that will be offered through the county’s Summer Youth Employment Program, which matches income-eligible teens with minimum-wage summer jobs.
Saratoga County’s program, which is funded by the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, received a 60 percent increase in funding this year, Scaccia said.
Funded employment opportunities for teens are also up slightly in Schenectady, said county spokesman Joe McQueen. A total of about 600 summer positions are available to eligible youth, but that’s not nearly enough to meet the demand. Applications received by the April deadline numbered 820, he said.
The Fulton, Montgomery and Schoharie Counties Workforce Development Board has less funding for teen jobs this year than last, due to a loss of special funding, said Executive Director Gail Breen. Last year, 356 jobs were available within the three counties to income-eligible youth ages 14 to 21. This year that number has dropped to 150.
“It’s really difficult with work right now. I won’t tell you it’s not,” Breen said. “There are a lot of adults that are competing for the same jobs that young people are competing for, but young people need to get out there and try. They need to get their feet wet and need to put in those applications. They can’t just assume that well, somebody else is going to take that job.”
Saltsman said teens are being shut of out jobs by technology as well. “Ten years ago grocery stores might have hired 15 kids to bag groceries. This summer, maybe they’re opting for self checkout lanes instead,” he said.
Teens make up most of the workforce at Country Drive-In in Clifton Park. Every summer, the restaurant employs between 35 and 40 of them, said manager and co-owner Lena Riberdy. This year, she’s seen a jump in applications.
“I’m going to hire a few more after school is out but I’ve had to turn a lot away and it’s heartbreaking because people are applying for their first job and I feel so bad telling them that they’re not getting their first job here,” she said.
Greg Albin, manager of Hewitt’s Garden Center in Glenville, also had to turn away between 15 and 18 teen applicants looking for summer work.
Conversely, Six Flags Great Escape in Lake George is still hiring, said communications manager Rebecca Close. The amusement park hires about 1,500 summer employees.
“We would love for teens getting out of school and looking for summer employment to apply,” said Close.
A little over a week ago, Hjelmar applied at Players Park Family Fun Plex in Clifton Park and was offered a position.
“Right after I got a job at the mini-golf place, all my friends were like, ‘Hey, how’d you get a job there?’ ” he said.
Community Human Services in Glenville matches youths in Schenectady and Saratoga counties with summer jobs.
About the same number of kids are out there looking for employment this summer as last, but there are fewer jobs available, said Renee Ramsey, youth service coordinator for the Job Match program at CHS. Currently, she has only about five job openings on her roster.
“[Teens’] job market is very limited right now,” she said. “There’s a lot of adults looking for jobs.”
CAPTAIN Youth and Family Services in Clifton Park helps Shenendehowa school district students find summer jobs at sites ranging from convenience stores to retirement communities. Youth development coordinator Steve Eggleston said demand is higher this year. He’s also seen a shift in the job search dynamic.
“Usually the jobs that the college kids get are now being taken by people that have bachelor’s degrees, because they’ve lost their jobs. College kids are kind of stealing the high school kids’ jobs. Who’s really getting bumped is the 14- and 15-year-olds. That’s the biggest increase I’ve seen, is the 14- and 15-year-olds coming in with their parents, looking for jobs,” he said.
Teens that can’t find traditional summer employment should consider alternatives such as volunteering or internships, Saltsman recommended. The value of a summer job is more than a paycheck. Work experience is beneficial as well, he said.