When crowds of teen-agers file into
the Historic German Festhaus at
today, park managers will tantalize them with jobs paying up to $9
an hour and incentives such as theme parties, park passes and
discounts on new cars. Anyone recommending a friend who also gets
hired receives a $50 bonus. It's all an effort to fill the park's
4,400 seasonal spots. Despite such offerings last year, the park
fell ''hundreds short'' of its hiring goal, said one recruiter.
''Every year it is a challenge,''
said Jeff Siebert, park spokesman. ''It's great for employees. If
you want to be employed, there are plenty of jobs available.''
With unemployment at record lows,
teens are increasingly finding they can dictate their pay, work
hours and the limits of their willingness to mop bathroom floors.
Employers know they could lose disgruntled staff to eager
competitors no further away than the nearest shopping mall.
More than one million American
teen-agers will enter the workforce this summer, swelling their
ranks to more than three million nationwide. With
's unemployment at an historic 3 percent, those workers have more
leverage than ever.
Only the least employable people
are still scrubbing toilets or bending over in hot farm fields,
recruiters said. One fast-food restaurant manager scoffed at the
idea of hiring anyone for minimum wage.
Instead, Wendy's restaurants and
other fast food chains are scouring local high schools for
workers. Some individual stores are offering new employees $100
signing bonuses, and giving them an additional $50 if they stay
for even one week.
''With today's labor shortage,
employers can't find skilled help of any age,'' said Gary Flesch,
labor market analyst with the Ohio Bureau of Employment Services.
''Employers are trying to become more and more creative to fill
their labor needs.''
Teens represent just 5 percent of
all workers, but some industries could hardly survive without
them. More than a quarter of all restaurant and food preparation
employees are teens, according to the National Restaurant
Twenty percent of all grocery
workers and 15 percent of department store employees are between
the ages of 16 and 19, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics. Young people also have 16.2 percent of the
entertainment industry jobs.
For the most part, these teens are
every bit as productive as adult workers, but they typically need
extra training and nurturing by older managers, said Kathleen
Dickinson, a Las Vegas-based ''relationship facilitator'' who
coaches employees on hiring teens.
Some teens were raised with little
or no adult supervision, she said, and now need managers willing
to teach them and listen to their ideas.
''They try real hard and they want
to succeed,'' Ms. Dickinson said. ''They are basically good kids.
It's just that no one has paid attention to them.''
At age 14, the minimum for most
jobs, 57 percent of teen-agers perform some kind of work,
according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nearly
one-in-four holds a formal job and the others do work such as
baby-sitting or mowing lawns.
More than half of all teens work in
the retail industry and restaurants. Ten percent work in grocery
stores. Another third work in service industries such as nursing
By high school graduation, 80
percent of all students say they have worked at some point.
For many, their jobs mean little
more than another extra-curricular activity - something to fill
the time between school and homework.
On the job with their friends and
classmates, young cashiers and baggers at the Sharonville Kroger
figure they would be hanging out with the same people anyway.
Might as well make extra money for clothes, cars and movie
tickets, they said.
''I like it - it's just kinda time
off,'' said Lauren Starling, 15, spraying rows of pink and purple
hyacinths in the Kroger flower shop. ''I don't have to think too
much and I get stress out.''
With little to keep her occupied in
the evenings, Kim Sweeten decided she would fill her hours by
working as a cashier in a Wendy's restaurant. The
teen typically works seven hours a night but counts school as her
''I put school before my job,''
said Miss Sweeten, 16, who does most of her homework at school.
For most, work will be a positive
experience - giving them extra discipline and taking little away
from their education. Few teens work to support their families as
they did in the past, and most are now just earning extra money
for their personal expenses.
Roughly every five days, an
American teen dies on the job - equal to about 70 adolescent
deaths every year. Another 200,000 will be injured while working;
half of those seriously hurt.
No industry is more
dangerous than agriculture, where labor laws allow teen-agers to
work at younger ages and perform more hazardous tasks. Children
may enter the fields as soon as they can walk in some states.
An estimated 13,000 American
children are employed in
sweatshops. They are among the 148,000 children and teens holding
illegal jobs, according to estimates by Doug Kruse, economist at
and Labor Relations.
The Department of Labor employs
roughly 1,000 federal inspectors and
another 17, but enforcement of child labor laws too often depends
on random chance or complaints from disgruntle d workers,
''We have to pick the worst cases
and complaints or think strategically and focus on one thing,''
said Don Harrison, assistant district director for the U.S.
Department of Labor's Wage & Hour office in
. ''But if we're doing restaurants, we're not doing grocery
In that environment, no one has
more leverage to protect teen workers than they have themselves.
With employers such as
desperate to find enough qualified workers, teens are more likely
to find employers offering many concessions up front.
The park has raised wages in most
of its departments, helped with transportation and become more
creative in its offerings. Park managers host barbecue picnics for
employees or operate rides in the early morning for workers' use.
The most dedicated employees will win certificates worth $500
discounts on new car purchases. Others will receive theme park
Even so, recruiters worry they will
not meet their hiring quotas.
Nancy Raimey, director of the Ohio
Bureau of Employment Services'
office, is traveling to local high schools, helping the theme park
find employees. Realistically, she knows there are simply not
enough young workers to fill demand.
''Based on last year's experience
, they fell really short in terms of what they wanted for the
summer - hundreds short,'' she said.
employers who hire teen-age workers must meet these federal
and state guidelines.
must be at least 14 to apply for most types of work, excluding
family businesses or farms.
younger than 18 are prohibited from holding jobs in mining,
demolition, logging and meat-packing or jobs that require
operating most power machines, handling explosives or
chemicals, climbing on roofs, driving a motor vehicle and
making brick or tile.
school is in session, anyone aged 14 or 15 cannot work before
and may not exceed more than three work hours on a school day
or 18 hours on a school week. People aged 16 or 17 may not
or later than ,
Sunday through Thursday.
school is not in session, minors aged 14 and 15 cannot work
later than 9 p.m. or log more than eight hours a day, 40 hours
per week. Teens ages 16 and 17 can work any time.
Wage & Hour Division - (614) 644-2239; U.S. National
Institute for Occupational Safety & Health - (800)