By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – High school grad Tyler Rosenthal is spending his summer cleaning golf carts and picking up golf balls at Big Oaks Golf Course.
The 19-year-old has been on the job about two weeks. Even though he’s sweating in the heat, he’s excited to be one of the lucky few to have scored a summer job at the course.
“I love golf,” he said. “I just like being around the golf course. I have great coworkers.”
This summer, teens continue to compete with unemployed workers for temporary jobs.
Mississippi had the country’s sixth highest teenage unemployment rate of 32.6 percent, according to an April analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data by the Employment Policies Institute.
Georgia’s 37.3 percent teen unemployment rate was the highest in the the U.S.
Nationally, the teen unemployment rate rose slightly to 24.5 percent in March 2011. The rate for black teens rose to 42.1 percent.
“The statistics are devastating: Nationally, nearly one in four teens is looking for work without success,” said Michael Saltsman, a research fellow at EPI.
The figures are of great concern to researchers, who say the rate will have a continued impact in years to come.
“Past research shows that teens without job opportunities are at a higher risk for dropping out of high school or winding up in the criminal justice system,” Saltsman said.
Research shows that work experience for teenagers is directly correlated to if the teens will work in their 20s, according to The Center for Labor Market Studies at Northern University.
Several businesses in Northeast Mississippi are helping high school and college students this summer, including Hunter Douglas, Reed’s, City of Tupelo Park and Recreation Department and Big Oaks.
“It’s good for us,” said Katie Walton, human resources manager at Hunter Douglas. “It’s good for them. It’s really a good opportunity, especially for students going into a business degree to see what it’s like in the manufacturing industry.”
Hunter Douglas has filled its 12 openings for the summer. Temporary jobs are filled at many of the area’s other businesses, but the hiring managers said positions may become available if current people leave.
“We always encourage people to put applications in, even if we don’t have an opening,” said Clyde Biddle, the office manager for Reed’s.
And when students go to fill out an application, Biddle said, it helps to call in advance and see if he will be there.
“First impressions are important,” Biddle said.
Dressing the part is critical, as well.
“A tie always helps,” he said. “We’ve had them turn up in bathing suits.”
A tie isn’t necessary at all jobs, so employers encourage students to dress for the position they want. Being neat and clean is crucial, they say.
“You never have a second chance to make a first impression,” said Chris Gann, who works in the pro shop at Big Oaks. “You have to want the job and expect to work the day you come in.”
Students also should be able to work flexible hours if they want a job.
“It’s hard to work with kids if they come in and hand you their schedule with t-ball, soccer and vacation,” said Debbie Soward, owner of Big Oaks. “Somebody who really wants a job is very flexible and fills out an application and they call and check after. Someone who wants a job is very persistent.”
And, successful job applications are willing to work nights and weekends.
At Hunter Douglas, Walton has a standard question for all students – do you have good transportation?
She also looks for experience, but said a lack of experience won’t disqualify an applicant.
This is the third year that Hunter Douglas has hired for an extra shift during the summer. The shift is during the hottest time of day.
The company has fans, free Gatorade, slushies and ice cream for employees, but applicants have to be able to work in the heat if they want the job.
Rosenthal said the heat was something he had to think about at his job at Big Oaks, but it was worth it to the avid golfer. One of the perks of his job is he gets to play for free.
He thanked the management for taking a chance on him and encouraged other teens to be courteous and eager to work if they want a job.
“You’ve just got to be willing,” he said.
Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or firstname.lastname@example.org.