Teens working for a living

Posted Monday, Jul. 01, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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For many students, summer is a time for cramming in as much recreation as possible before the next school bell. But for many others, it’s a brief window to get a job, gain work experience and, of course, earn that money -- and a taste of independence.

But that’s if they can find a job in a local economy that, while rebounding, still feels the effect of the Great Recession.

“I had been driving around asking if people were hiring, and a lot of people weren’t,” said Marisa Peterson, who will be a junior at Mansfield High School. “One place said they had 400 applicants.”

But she walked into one restaurant, turned in an application, and quickly got a phone call. “They told me to come in,” Peterson said. “They interviewed me, and I started working that same day.”

She’s a hostess in her first job.

Still, she added, “I thought it was really difficult, because they don’t want to take people that don’t have experience.”

Savana Daniell visited five businesses to ask for work and submitted online resumes to two other stores. As of last week, she was waiting hopefully to hear back from a Mexican restaurant.

“I have been babysitting for three years,” said Daniell, who graduated from Mansfield High last month. “I wanted like a more stable source of income. And I wanted a chance to develop my customer service skills. I wanted that experience before I went to college.”

Her parents were supportive of her quest for summer work – perhaps excessively so, she said.

“They are all over me wanting me to get a job,” she said. “It’s kind of annoying, because it’s not like I’m sitting around, not trying to get a job. They want me to have the experience and to contribute.”

Daniell found babysitting to be inadequate employment. She’s looking for 50 hours of work a week, so she can have money to set aside for college, to help with car expenses and to shop and eat out with friends.

Many retail establishments in Mansfield provide opportunities for summer work, especially season-oriented businesses like the Hawaiian Falls water park, on Texas 360 in southeast Mansfield.

“We hire roughly 300 every year, and of those 25 are adults,” said Randall Hudson, the water park’s general manager. “The rest are teenagers or college age. Adults are looking for more permanent positions.”

Even then, it can still be difficult for a first-time job hunter because so many teens return to Hawaiian Falls.

“This year we hired around 150 new employees,” Hudson said. “We had a lighter turnout than in the past two to three years. Roughly 650 applied this year. In the past couple of years, we’ve had over 1,000.”

But Benjamin Walker, 16, who attends Bowie High School in Arlington, was surprised how easy it was to get a job at Hawaiian Falls.

“My cousin was going to a job interview, so I threw on a dress shirt and went,” he said. “The kid part of me wishes I hadn’t. The fun slows down because the responsibility starts kicking.”

Sixteen-year-old Robyn Carr, who will be a senior at Summit High, was happy to finally land her first job at Hawaiian Falls this summer, working in food and beverages.

“I was looking for a job since I was 14,” she said. “Now I have my foot in the door, so when this season ends I’ll be able to get another job.”

Across the parking lot from Hawaiian Falls, Big League Dreams also added some teens.

“We probably hired 15 kids this summer,” among a total of 50 employees, said Brad Brewer, general manager of the Big League Dreams complex of replicated Major League Baseball stadiums, next door to Hawaiian Falls.

Asked if there are advantages to hiring teenagers, Brewer said, “Not really. We just hire based on need, depending on what our seasons are. Obviously, we carry more employees from April to November than from November to April, but that doesn’t mean we get rid of them. It just means they get fewer hours.”

He said the summer teens he hires make minimum wage – currently $7.25 per hour.

The Texas Workforce Commission’s local agency – Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County – provided 110 summer jobs at area businesses this year for 17- to 21-year-olds, said Tabitha Smith, local workforce program manager.

The workers’ minimum-wage salaries are fully paid with funding from the Workforce Investment Act, a program that also has year-round slots – 952 this year – for jobs as well as job training, mentoring, GED assistance and support services, she said.

Smith said the agency is working to strengthen ties with four major industries expected to see the most job growth – medical, manufacturing, hospitality and aerospace. This year it created Career Exploration, which arranges youth tours of businesses mostly within those target industries.

“They should hire kids for the summer just to give back to the community,” Smith said. “It helps get youths off the street and gets them involved. On the employer end, they get to provide mentoring to youth who eventually will be in the workforce.”

Programs and opportunities are detailed on its website, www.workforcesolutions.net.

It didn’t take Taylor Trammell long to land a job at Mansfield Paint Ball on FM 1187. Trammell, who will be a senior at Legacy High, clocked in near June 1 for her assignment as a referee, monitoring paint-ball battles and enforcing the rules.

“Like, you have a 20-foot rule –you can’t be any closer to the person when you’re shooting him,” Trammell said. “If you’ve already been shot and you wipe the paint off like you haven’t been shot – I look for things like that.”

This isn’t her first job. She worked at Six Flags last summer, then during the past school year she worked at both Spring Creek Barbeque and Dots clothing store, rolling up 15 to 20 hours a week to juggle with schoolwork.

She said paint ball refereeing pays more than her previous, minimum-wage jobs.

Her parents support her busy work ambitions.

“They’re more like – I’m getting older and I can start doing things on my own,” Trammell said. “It doesn’t bother me.”

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