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Whether it’s life guarding or flipping burgers, the summer months are a valuable opportunity for many students to make a little extra cash for the coming school year.
At the beginning of last summer, from April to July 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the number of employed youth (ages 16-24) spiked dramatically, from 2.1 million in April to 19.5 million in July.
Both high school and college students often seek temporary employment during the summer months, but the number also includes recent college graduates looking to enter the workforce permanently for the first time.
An additional 4 million youths sought summer jobs,but were unable to find one, resulting in a youth unemployment rate of 17.1 percent.
Of those 19.5 million youth workers in July 2012, 26 percent of them were involved in the leisure and hospitality sector jobs, which includes food services. Another 19 percent of employed youth worked in the retail trade industry in July.
Working as a cashier or a cook at a fast-food restaurant may not be ideal, but the little prior experience required for the job makes it a good pick for teens looking to enter the workforce for the first time.
Bernice Dixon is the owner and a manager of Dairy Queen in Shelbyville, and she said 42 percent of her employees are teenagers who start during high school, about 10 percent of which she hires during the summer.
Many of the kids working at DQ stay with the restaurant throughout both their high school and college careers, she said.
“Usually once they start working in high school, they’ll come back in the summer and work when they are home from college and during their Christmas break also,” Dixon said.
Many teens in the Shelbyville area find jobs for the summer with Shelby County Parks and Recreation as lifeguards for the pools at the Family Activity Center.
FAC Director Jeremiah Heath said the parks department employs 36 lifeguards, most of them either high school or college students. About half of the kids are returning guards, and the other half are new. Many start life guarding as high school students and continue during their college years when they return home for the summer.
“We have a pretty good retention rate,” Heath said. “We have some kids who have been with us for five or six years.”
Soaking up the sun and occasionally making a dive into the pool seems like the perfect cushy job for a teen, but Heath said it’s far from a cakewalk.
“It’s a pretty good job for them, but it’s also a pretty demanding job,” he said. “It takes a very responsible person to do that job.”
It’s also a thankless one. Heath said guards at the pools make rescues every day, but that it is incredibly rare for them to ever be thanked by a parent of a saved child.
Lifeguards can start at age 15, and many of them do. Some even start earlier, Heath said, as junior lifeguards who basically just serve as an extra pair of eyes on the pool and are not trained in CPR, First Aid or rescue methods.
Heath said every year many more kids apply to lifeguard for the summer than there are positions. Most lifeguard hopefuls submit their applications in January and February, and by the end of March and beginning of April, all lifeguard positions are filled.
When that happens, Heath said they encourage kids to put in their applications elsewhere, such as the Cardinal Club in Simpsonville.
There are other jobs as well. Many teens find work part-time as cashiers or baggers at local grocery stores, such as the Kroger in Shelbyville, which employs 39 teens, Kroger representative Tim McGurk said.