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Kids, adults both pound pavement for summer jobs

Union Leader Correspondent

June 04. 2012 3:18AM
Chelsea Kathman, 19, puts out a sign for help wanted at DW Pizzeria in Merrimack. (Nancy Bean Foster/Union Leader Correspondent)

Though there seems to be some improvement in the summer job market, teenagers are still competing with underemployed adults for seasonal positions - and often losing the race.

'It's just as hard for kids to find work as it is for professionals,' said Gina Gulino-Payne, executive director of the Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce. 'They really have to be pounding the pavement and taking the job search seriously.'

When Gulino-Payne was a teenager, finding jobs at the local Burger King or grocery store was easy, 'but it's not like that anymore.'

'Employers, even the ones doing very well, haven't loosened up the purse strings to add personnel,' said May Balsama, executive director of the Souhegan Valley Chamber of Commerce. In Amherst, Rick Katzenberg went from coaching tennis to helping kids find work when the recession hit. His players were struggling to break into a job market that was inundated by folks their parents' age working two or three part-time jobs to make ends meet. He decided to act as a matchmaker between companies and kids.

Katzenberg and a group of students founded a teen job bank - the kids run the bank while Katzenberg oversees it - and they connect unemployed students with everything from lawn mowing and babysitting work to jobs at local companies.

'The kids tell us what their skills are, and we try to find them work,' said Katzenberg.

But the going is tough.

'It's nearly impossible for kids to find jobs because there are so many adults chasing the same positions,' he said.

Some improvement

On paper, the number of kids working has improved since 2009 in New Hampshire. During the second quarter of that year, there were 9,300 new hires in the 14-to-18 age group, according to Katrina Evans of the Department of Employment Security. Last year, the number was 10,255 for the same period.

'We're starting to see some glimmer of improvement, but nothing to hang our hats on,' Evans said. 'But there are some positive projections we're seeing, so we have hope.'

In the Lakes Region, Chamber of Commerce Director Karmen Gifford said the tourism industry helps provide jobs for kids. She thinks this summer will be better for young people seeking work.

'It's early, but there are a lot of people advertising for help,' she said. 'I think it's getting better.'

What's expected

In order for teens to land jobs, they need to be able to compete in a tight market, said Gulino-Payne.

'I've encouraged my own kids to build a resume that they can add to the job applications,' she said, 'but it's also important that they look responsible and act the part.'

Pam Szacik of the Department of Employment Security said the New Hampshire WorkReady Program helps kids learn what's expected of them in the workplace - how to dress, how to showcase their skills, even how to get along with others.

Offered at community colleges in Berlin, Portsmouth, Conway, Littleton, Keene, Claremont and Manchester, WorkReady also provides skills assessments and 'soft skills' courses for kids trying to break into the market.

'It really helps the students show what they can do,' said Szacik.

And local employment offices are open to kids looking for work so that they can use the computers, talk to employment counselors, and take advantage of the opportunities that are out there.

For kids who can't find work, Gulino-Payne said that volunteering provides important building blocks for resumes that might otherwise seem a bit sparse, and internships - though they're also tough to come by - can be a good way to build skills.

Schools step up

Local schools and towns are trying to help kids get work as well. In Wilton, the town is sponsoring a job fair from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 15 at the high school to help connect kids with jobs, said town Welfare Director CJ Gorius. At John Stark Regional High School in Weare, school-to-career coordinator Susan Hume said jobs are posted on a special board at the school as students enter the building.

'Students also come to the guidance office or school-to-career coordinator for ideas and information on the process of looking for a job,' Hume said. 'Several of our courses offer resume writing, cover letter writing and the application process to help students prepare for job seeking and interviews.'

In the Lakes Region, a lot of employers aren't even advertising their job openings, said Gifford.

'Employers are going right to the schools,' she said, 'so we're collaborating with businesses and schools to encourage them to work together.'

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