Crossroads teens search for perfect summer job

May 12, 2012 at 12:12 a.m.
Updated May 13, 2012 at 12:13 a.m.

Derek White stays on the go these days, heading to classes, studying for finals and making final preparations for graduating from Victoria West High School.

While he is busy now, it's just a matter of weeks before he finds himself poolside, soaking up rays of sun and raking in cash.

The 18-year-old begins lifeguarding the Gary T. Moses Municipal Pool at the end of the month.

"I'll do it for money, but get a tan, too," he said with a smile. "I think it'll be good."

White isn't alone in his employment endeavor.

As temperatures rise and school nears its end, many high school and college students begin scrambling for summer employment.

Last year, 1,087,000 16- through 19-year-olds nationwide took on summer jobs, according to a news release from the Chicago-based Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. The firm estimated 2012's numbers to be even higher.

"The teen job market definitely rebounded in 2011, with more than one million teens finding new jobs," John A. Challenger, the firm's CEO, said in the release. "However, job gains among teens were still well below the levels achieved prior to the recession. While teen employment is likely to see further improvement this summer, job gains will probably once again fall short of pre-recession figures."

Prospects seem strong throughout the Crossroads, said Carole Kolle, director of Workforce Solutions of the Golden Crescent. Listings are posted at the center, she said, and "help wanted" signs are visible up and down Navarro Street, in restaurants, retail stores and more.

"It's a very promising summer for teens," she said, explaining jobs such as ground and pool maintenance, and even construction work, are available. "We haven't seen this in the last few summers."

Kolle urged teens who haven't already found work to begin actively looking as soon as possible by registering with the center, applying online or picking up applications.

"Now's the time to set a plan, to set a goal and get busy with it," she said.

Victoria College student Chelsie Lambert began her search for a job in retail a few weeks ago, mainly through online job hunts. She now plans to visit stores and pick up applications within the coming days.

"I need the money," the 18-year-old Edna resident said with a smile.

While students like Lambert are busy searching, others appear to be taking summer in stride.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., in its news release, said fewer teens nationwide seem to be seeking seasonal work than before the recession. In 2011, the number of 16- to 19-year-olds without work was 11,048,000, according to the release, and 90 percent of those teens indicated they didn't want jobs.

That low turnout is a problem Latif Arikan said he's encountered during his summer hiring season.

Arikan owns Moon Star, a kiosk that sells remote-controlled helicopters and other electronic toys inside the Victoria Mall. Two weeks after posting his "now hiring" sign, he said he hadn't gotten a response.

"People need the money, but don't want to work," he said, noting no one had requested an application or even asked what the job paid. "I think they are being lazy."

The business owner said the shop's kiosk location might also play a role, noting teens might prefer work with a larger company.

"But I'm here," he said. "I'm still waiting."

As for White, he said he looks forward to his work at the pool and the journey that follows. He was recently accepted to Texas State University in San Marcos, and begins classes during the fall semester.

"I'm ready," he said. "I'm excited."



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