Job hunt frustrates Vail Valley teens
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – After filling out a job application at Pier 1 Imports in Avon, 18-year-old Nallely Rodriguez sighed.
“Oh my God,” she said quietly. “There’s no work for anyone.”
For several hours on Wednesday, the recent Battle Mountain High School graduate and friends Gabriela Cruz, 18, and Lizbeth Munoz, 16, canvassed Avon businesses, searching for summer jobs. Few companies were hiring. And the girls feared they face steep competition for the handful of job openings they found.
Their story is common this summer, as students struggle to land summer gigs in a down economy.
“The jobs that youths would normally fill are being filled by adults and so their quest to find a job is going to be very challenging this summer,” said Dawn Bray-Jenks, an employment specialist with the Colorado Workforce Center in Leadville. She helps Eagle County teens find and train for jobs.
Last year, the unemployment rate for Colorado teens who were actively seeking jobs averaged 24.7 percent, Bray-Jenks said. That’s the most recent data she has available for youths. Since last year, more troubling trends have emerged in the local job market.
“A lot of businesses have closed,” she said. “A number of people have exhausted all of their unemployment benefits.”
People who had been on unemployment may have been looking to go back into the industry form which they had been laid off, and when that failed, settled for any job to keep a roof over their family’s head. The effect: fewer jobs for teens.
Although job opportunities are low, the stakes remain high for some students. Rodriguez and Cruz say they need money so they can start classes at Community College of Denver in the fall.
“I’m going to Denver and the school’s really expensive and if I don’t find a job, I won’t be able to pay for my classes and that’s really worrying, you know?” Rodriguez said.
Cruz echoed that sentiment. She’s the first person in her family to graduate from high school and she has her heart set on getting a college education.
“They’re all hoping I become someone in the future,” she said of her family.
Alexa Flower from West Vail is home from college for the summer. The 19-year-old hopes to find a job where she could work during the day but hasn’t had any luck. She searched Craigslist.com and the Vail Daily for openings but found few ads. Although daytime work has been hard to come by, Flower returned to a nighttime job selling concessions during Vail’s Hot Summer Nights concerts.
With all the competition from experienced professionals, Bray-Jenks said, teens shouldn’t take rejection personally during their job searches.
“These kids have done everything they’re supposed to do,” she said. “They’ve graduated from high school and they go into a labor market that is just really tough right now, and for the younger ones, 14 to 18, the competition for those jobs they would normally hold is really steep.”
As of April, the most recent data available, Eagle County’s unemployment rate was 8.9 percent, Bray-Jenks said. A 5-percent unemployment rate is considered healthy, she said.
Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.