Savannah Rodgers said now that she graduated from Marietta High School and plans to head to college, having a summer job is an absolute necessity.
She’s been lucky, she said, not be caught up in the struggle to find one.
Rodgers, 18, has been working at the Dairy Queen in Marietta for about nine months, and though grateful for her position, said the high prices of everything that are now put on younger people like her is a major point of stress.
As school is ending and students are returning home from college for the summer, most young people have either returned to seasonal jobs or are looking for a new one.
“I am actually having a hard time finding kids to fill up jobs this year,” said Candy Nelson, who operates the youth employment program at the Washington County Department of Job and Family Services. “Some of the kids I have in my program have even ended up finding better jobs than the ones I have found for them.”
The program is designed to help 16-to-24-year-olds living with their parents whose income falls at 200 percent below the federal poverty level, and Nelson said she currently has about 100 young people in the job pool.
“If you really need a job, there are jobs out there, you just have to really get out there and look,” Nelson said. “Recently it seems like employers are really busy, and really need the extra help.”
Fast foods restaurants, Nelson said, are big on availability right now, as places like Bar-B-Cutie and Long John Silver’s have recently posted jobs.
Cleaning, painting, mowing and child care jobs are also growing, and Nelson said lots of her students find city jobs over the summer quite easily, especially with an increase in construction and city improvement projects.
“There are a lot of students who need jobs,” Rodgers said. “It’s so hard to save money, with gas being so expensive and trying to pay for school and everything else.”
Rodgers got her job after a few months of searching with no previous luck, and said she is similar to many of her peers in that her family lives paycheck to paycheck, so summer work is a necessity as well as a good learning experience.
“I think everyone should hold a job in the fast food industry,” she said. “You learn responsibility and how to be on time and get work done, but you also learn how to deal with all types of people and how to work with others.”
Jackie Becker, 19, lives in Marietta and is also recently out of high school, but has recently added the expense of getting engaged, and is now looking for a way to save up money.
“I’m not looking for anything in particular, I just need something that will pay decently and will give me a lot of hours,” she said. “I want to look into restaurant help but I do not want to look for fast food, and you really have to go to Parkersburg to get a lot of that stuff, so it is difficult.”
Mike Huck, owner of L.E. Huck & Sons Farm Market, said his main hiring pool is comprised of area high school students as well as college students and recent graduates looking for summer work.
“A lot of the times when kids get here, this is their first job, so it gives them good training,” Huck said. “We have them do everything from making sandwiches to running the register, so they get a good mix of work in.”
Nicole Lang, 18, just graduated from Fort Frye High School, but has been employed at L.E. Huck for two years.
“From what I’ve heard, if you really want a job, you can find one,” she said. “It’s not the easiest to do, but you just have to be flexible and willing to do what they need you to do.”
Joshua Thieman, 19, also of Marietta, found full-time summer work at Warren’s IGA to help pay for college.
“I needed to start paying off my student loan debt and pay for college, and I got this job about four months ago,” he said. “This is a local business, so I thought it would be a good place to work.”
Thieman said he was lucky to have some connections through family and friends, but said it is not always so easy.
“It can be difficult, but it helps if you know people,” he said. “But if you do find something, it gives you that extra sense of responsibility as well as extra money.”
Nelson stressed to young people to start looking as soon as possible, but also not to get discouraged if something does not come up right at the beginning of summer.
“Sometimes we get short-term jobs or if a business realizes they are busier than they thought, they’ll need stuff at the last minute all the way into July,” she said.
Cory McAtee, of Williamstown, returned home from his sophomore year at Marshall University and began what he said is an exhaustive search to find a summer job.
“I had several interviews and turned up with nothing,” he said. “No one wants seasonal help, especially in retail, so it’s really hard for students when they can only work in the summer.”
McAtee, 20, said he had worked at a Cold Stone Creamery in high school but really wanted to find something more geared toward retail.
“I just want to save money for school, and I do not want to be a burden on my parents while I’m home, either,” he said.