EAGLE COUNTY — With summer nearly upon us, it’s time to think about summer work — especially for teens and young adults. The good news is, summer jobs are a bit more plentiful than they have been the past few years.
Mary Cunningham has run the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s “Workforce Center” in Edwards through good times and bad. It wasn’t terribly long ago that there were far more available jobs posted in her office than people available to fill them. The past few years, there have been far more job-seekers than jobs. The situation is better today than it was in, say, 2010. But the days of more jobs than people remain a memory.
Job listings are “still on the slim side,” Cunningham said. “But we have a lot of hope for the summer.”
That hope comes from several construction projects that are ready to start, including a time-share condo project in Avon. But those job listings haven’t yet come into the office. Meanwhile, an average of 60 people a week check into the office, and many of those people are looking for work.
But, like every summer, the next couple of weeks will bring plenty of interest from people fresh out of school and looking for work.
Teachers and counselors at Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain high schools say they put out blast emails when employers send word about work available. Usually, though, those notices won’t put too many kids to work.
“It’s been a struggle over the past years,” Battle Mountain High School counselor Jan Abbott said.
The story is different at Red Canyon High School, the Eagle County School District’s “alternative” high school. There, kids are expected to work while they’re in school.
Tom Gladitsch — a former corporate headhunter in a previous career — helps connect Red Canyon students with employers, for both the school year and the summer. In March, Gladitsch and other district officials helped host a job fair in the Battle Mountain gym, with some success. Gladitsch said a handful of students have landed job offers from employers who attended the job fair.
“It’s good to see the kids have the opportunity,” Gladitsch said.
The job fair, as well as the links between Red Canyon and local businesses, are part of a “very aggressive” effort to link young people and work.
Ultimately, though, job-seekers, especially teens, need to take the initiative to find work.
Gladitsch said a college degree used to just about guarantee job prospects for graduates. That’s changed, with many college graduates now technically “underemployed” and taking jobs that in years past might go to high school students or recent graduates.
“Jobs are still out there, but it takes some persistent activity to turn those jobs into careers,” Gladitsch said.
There’s competition for even summer or part-time jobs, Gladitsch said. That’s why it’s important to treat a job search like a job, at least until an employment offer comes along.
“I tell kids it’s going to take five or six hours a day if you’re serious,” Gladitsch said.
Beyond that advice, Kimberly Hetrick, the business teacher at Eagle Valley, said it’s important for teens to understand what they need to do to succeed in a highly competitive job market.
Given that we still live in a relatively small place, there’s a good chance a teen’s employer is going to know someone’s kid by reputation, Hetrick said. That’s why it’s important to develop and maintain a good one, from sports to the classroom to the community. And, for better or worse, once a teen has a reputation, it’s going to stick.
That’s why Hetrick asks her students if they’d talk, dress or behave the way they do in class in front of their grandmothers. If the answer is no, the teen likely has some work to do.
Ultimately, Hetrick said, teens need to persevere in their job search, work every connection they know and, once they land a job, be responsible.
“If people respect you — and you respect yourself — opportunities will present themselves,” she said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2939 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.