Tyler Nelson, 15, foreground left,
receives training from Sabrina Andrews,
20, at Cold Stone Creamery at White Oak
Crossing in Garner, North Carolina.
Corey Lowenstein/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)
RALEIGH, N.C. — Bad news for teens still looking for work this summer: The national market is horrible — the worst in 60 years, according to one annual accounting.
"We probably get at least 100 applications a week," said Lori Allred, operator of the Chick-fil-A at Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh. "I don't hire anyone who is only available for the summer."
Even in a bad market, thousands of teenagers will be found running cash registers, guarding pools, stocking shelves and doing countless other jobs this summer.
But thousands won't be working at all, and part-timers will probably get squeezed.
"With the economy like it is, I need to meet the priorities of my full-time people who are paying rent and mortgages," Allred said. "They need more hours just to cover the increased costs of gas."
According to a study by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston, 34.2 percent of eligible teens expect to work this summer — the lowest since recordkeeping started in 1948.
The high water mark was 45.2 percent in the summer of 2000.
Jeff Buck, who owns seven area Cold Stone Creamery ice cream shopsea, said he noticed a different mix of applications this year.
"If anything, we are getting more older people and college students," Buck said. "In some stores they also seem to be more flexible about the hours they will work."
But an employer's need for flexibility can be an anchor in teens' schedules. Many teens have no interest — or simply can't — block out 40 hours a week just in case the boss needs them for a fraction of that time.
Justin Abbott is trying to get around that problem by creating his own job.
A rising high school junior, Abbott plays in a baseball league and has a church mission trip to Mexico planned. He knew his time would be tight this summer. "But we were also on him to do something to help pay for the gas," said his mother, Melanie Abbott.
So Justin and a friend printed 200 fliers offering landscaping services and power washing their neighborhood.
He walked home this week with $100 in his pocket and leads on a few more jobs. "It would be good to get something where we go back every week," he said.
That kind of consistency is easier for teens to find when they start the job hunt early.
Suzanne Kirkland, a rising senior, took that approach when she got her lifeguard certification in March for a job she started in mid-May.
"This was one of the only jobs I could think of that I knew I would enjoy," Kirkland said.
The director of career placement services at UNC-Chapel Hill encourages students to apply for summer internships months before they begin, even if they have to move out of town and pay living expenses. That's especially true in the current economy.
"There are companies that are delaying entry-level hiring in a downturn and hiring more interns because they can be terminated at the end of the summer," said the director, Marcia Harris. "Then when they do hire, those people come from the former intern pool."
That kind of inside track to a job is what rising senior Victor Wortham of N.C. Central University discovered when he took an internship last year at Northwestern Mutual. Now in his second summer with the company, he hopes to work there full-time.
"It's a huge advantage," he said. "It's an immediate career option."
It might pay to break away from the pack and do the job others never think of. Southwestern Co. of Nashville, Tenn., has offered that chance to college kids for 140 years.
Southwestern's roots can be traced to the days after the Civil War, when its president tried to help students survive the tattered Southern economy by having them sell Bibles door to door.
Its materials are mostly secular now, but Southwestern still uses college students to sell books by lugging samples from one house to the next.
Between the weight of the books and the sting of rejections, it can be pretty thankless.
Many don't make it through the first month, said Matt Ross, who worked his way through college at UNC-Chapel Hill in the late 1990s and now works full time for the company. But the average student earns $2,600 per month, and some earn far more.
Jenn Jones, who is selling books this year, has worked in towns around the country for five consecutive summers.
"It's a horrible summer if I don't make at least $15,000," she said.
But one thing her summer job doesn't afford is the chance to dress up like a cow. That's the job for Andrew White.
White, 19, took a job about three years ago at a Chick-fil-A in Greensboro. He was just looking to earn a little cash.
A bit timid at the time, he surprised his boss when he offered to put on the cow suit that is used for Chick-fil-A promotional gigs.
"At first I just sort of stood on the sidewalk and waved, but that didn't seem right," said White, now a student at Wake Technical Community College.
"So I started dancing a little, and then I really got into it and started doing 360-spins and toe touches. I just went crazy."
One thing led to another, and White found himself in a Chick-fil-A cow competition. That earned him a trip to Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A football bowl game. This summer he is an intern with the company, helping stores with promotional events.
He hopes to attend N.C. State University and become that school's mascot while earning a degree that helps him operate his own Chick-fil-A franchise.
"It's amazing when I think about it sometimes," White said. "My high school job might very well become my career."
(c) 2008, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.).
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