Hard work & hot dogs

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Teens — and some adults — tackle summer jobs

By Tracy Harris

Pools are open, baseball season’s in full swing, yards need mowing — all opportunities for Oldham County youth to find employment.

Many teens see summer break as a chance to earn some spending money and to gain experience in the workforce.

But nationally, finding those jobs has become harder in recent years. In July 2011, only 48.8 percent of youth between the ages of 16 and 24 were employed, the lowest in a decade.

In many cities, positions normally held by teens have been cut as Americans recover from the recent recession. 

And some entry level jobs that teens would fill are now held by adults whose previous jobs were eliminated.

But Oldham County’s adult workforce is largely highly-educated, said Oldham Chamber and Economic Development Executive Director Deana Epperly Karem. 

“We’re not going to feel that as much as other communities,” she said. “The pain of it isn’t as obvious.”

In fact, Oldham County’s July unemployment figures have declined each of the past three years. In 2009, the number was 8.5 percent; last year it fell to 7.5 percent.

Unemployment figures for 2012 are also falling in Oldham County, at 7.6 percent in January and declining steadily to 5.9 percent in April.

That leaves plenty of room for Oldham County’s more than 6,000 youth to pick up various jobs around the area.

The county’s two little leagues have numerous teen employees — for many, the baseball fields are where they spend much of their time anyway.

That was the case for Tori McKinney, 18, who said her family is active in baseball and softball with the North Oldham Little League.

Her brother, Nick, has played since age 3 and played on last year’s world series team.

“My parents both coach, so it was pretty obvious when I was deciding to apply for my first job that I would be at the ball park,” she said.

She started there at age 12, working in the concession stand every summer since.

“My favorite part is the relationships I’ve developed with all the people up there,” she said. “I pride myself on the fact that I can remember most of the kids’ names and ask them about their games and how they have been.”

She said NOLL is like a family — players’ parents have watched her grow up at the ballpark and are always asking about how school is going and her plans for college.

McKinney said she is sad this is her last season working for NOLL — she will attend the University of Kentucky this fall.

Local swimming facilities offer seasonal employment for teens as well, both as lifeguards and in concession stands.

The John W. Black Aquatic Center hires about 45 employees to work while the pool is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, many of them teens, according to Parks and Recreation Director Tim Curtis.

While teens do make up most of the seasonal workforce in Oldham County, there are a few adults taking advantage of increased job opportunities as well.

And like their students, some teachers are taking advantage of the break to earn additional income, too.

La Grange restaurant One Nineteen West Main has added two teachers to its summer staff, one Jefferson County teacher and a University of Louisville teaching assistant.

Dani Gleason lives in La Grange but has worked for six years at Western High School in Shively.

Gleason said she usually spends her summer breaks traveling, but decided to stay home this year. 

When she went to renew her driver’s license in April, she saw a hiring sign at One Nineteen.

Gleason said she worked at restaurants during her college years and that working at One Nineteen in the summer seemed like a perfect fit, so she applied and started four days later.

Also picking up summer hours is graduate teaching assistant Jenn Buck, who is pursuing a master’s degree in French at U of L.

Currently Buck commutes from her parents’ La Grange home to the university, and opted for a summer job close to home. It’s her first time waitressing, which she describes as hard work but fun.

In Crestwood, seventh grader Brice Cravens found a unique summer job opportunity working at Hewn From The Mountain Music Cafe.

The acoustic music store opened in the fall but has already received accolades from local musicians who appreciate the store’s product selection, lessons, concerts and instruments handmade by owner Tom McShane.

Cravens helps with special projects at the store and receives viola lessons as part of his employment.

McShane said Cravens helps tune in-store instruments, which helps with Cravens’ own musical training.

McShane said he is impressed by Cravens work ethic and his politeness.

“I wouldn’t let just anybody in the back of the shop,” he said.

For teens still looking for summer employment, several websites can provide assistance. 

A Louisville-based program, SummerWorks, is online at kentuckianaworks.org

The U.S. Department of Labor also has a summer jobs database at dol.gov/summerjobs.