Colin Latislaw, a student at Niles High School, mans the booth at the go-carts track at Hacker's Golf and Games in Niles. Latislaw, 17, is fortunate to have a job in a tough market for summer employment this year. (Daily Star Photo/AARON MUELLER)
Colin Latislaw, a student at Niles High School, mans the booth at the go-carts track at Hacker's Golf and Games in Niles. Latislaw, 17, is fortunate to have a job in a tough market for summer employment this year. (Daily Star Photo/AARON MUELLER)

Archived Story

Summer jobs may be hard to come by for teens

Published 8:54am Thursday, April 1, 2010

By AARON MUELLER
Niles Daily Star

It could be a long summer for many teenagers in southwest Michigan.

In the coming weeks thousands of high school and college students in the area looking for summer jobs will be competing with the thousands of unemployed adults for seasonal work.
Job prospects for area teenagers took a major hit when Michigan Works! of Berrien, Cass and VanBuren counties announced funding cuts to its youth summer jobs program.

Michigan Works! will only be able to employ 80 teens this summer, compared to the 800 it served last year through funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“This is devastating for the communities we serve,” Todd Gustafson, executive director of Michigan Works!, said. “This program is the only opportunity for many local youth to learn work readiness skills and gain the valuable experience that is necessary for future success. This is the worst possible timing for these funds not to be replenished.”

The summer jobs program is designed for youth ages 14 to 21 and matches them with employers for a six-week period. Since 2004, the program has served more than 2,000 youth in the tri-county area.

Many local businesses are hiring summer help, but the number of applications far outweigh the number of openings.

The state line Dairy Queen has already hired a few teenagers for summer help, according to manager Glen Hare. He anticipates being able to hire several more, but the number of applications is higher than in past years, he said.

Mike Antisdel, the manager of Hacker’s Golf and Games, runs a pretty attractive place for summer employment.

“Right now I’m not sure how many openings we’ll have,” he said. “I’m letting people come back from last year. I might need one.”

He has already received 35 applications since opening two weeks ago and usually receives 200 applications for just 12 summer positions.

“We’re getting a lot of older people apply because of the economy,” Antisdel said, adding that he only hires high school and college students.

The City of Niles parks department is slashing the number of park counselor positions in half this year.

“Normally we employ nine or 10,” Neil Coulston, director of public works, said. “But due to the budget situation, this year will be five.”

Coulston said usually the city hires college students or upperclassmen in high school for the positions.

The summer parks program itself will be downsized, just being held at Plym Park this year, rather than branching out to several city parks.

The classic hotspot for summer jobs is the fast food industry.

The Niles McDonalds on South 11th Street has 10 to 15 openings, according to manager Thomas Gibbons.

“Summer is the busiest time for us,” Gibbons said.

He also said McDonalds typically receives three to four applications a day in the months leading up to the summer.

Officials at Michigan Works! said in a press release they are concerned of the impact on communities with so many teens without work. They say youth joblessness can lead to crime and gang activity. They also say high school graduation rates go up for kids with work experience.

“Summer youth employment is vitally important for our community for a variety of reasons,” said Marcus Robinson, president of the Consortium for Community Development. “Most importantly it provides young people with skills and exposure to opportunity that is vital to their upward mobility.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, nearly half of all youth ages 14 to 21 obtained employment in 2000. Last summer only one in three found a job, the lowest youth employment rate since the federal government began tracking the statistic in 1948.

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