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Working on summer job

Thursday, March 9th, 2006

New York Daily News -

It may not feel like it outside, but spring is around the corner, and teens looking to snag primo summer jobs need to get to work on applications and interviews.

Music downloads, video games and the latest clothing styles don't come for free, and kids looking to save for college may have an even bigger incentive to seek out the most lucrative gigs. So, how do you find them?

Although jobs are more plentiful than they were a few years ago, teens (especially those between 13 and 16) may still have a tough time getting them, said Renee Ward, founder of teen employment Web site While fast food joints and retail stores are often the first places kids think of, these spots increasingly snub job-hunters under 18, experts said.

Teen employment hit 45.2% in 2000, but then took a nosedive as the economy stumbled. It fell to 36.4% in 2004 and has barely budged since then, according to a report by the Center for Labor Studies at Northeastern University in Boston.

Competition from increasing numbers of older and immigrant workers also makes job-hunting tough for teens, said the study's co-author, Joseph McLaughlin.

That means kids need to work even harder to find well-paying positions.

Younger teens may have to strike out on their own to find work, but that doesn't mean that they have to accept meager wages.

Ward recommends that kids try to hire themselves out as party planners or organize garage or Internet auction sales for a cut of the profits.

They'll end up with spare cash, plus important experience, Ward said.

Younger teens "need to do more of those things and put them on their résumés, so that when they turn 17 or 18, it puts them in a better position to get other jobs," she suggested.

Getting work as an assistant to someone in a vocational trade, such as a plumber or a carpenter, while hard to dig up, may pay above the minimum wage, Ward said.

Baby-sitting can be a lucrative gig for teens, particularly those below 16, who may find getting a corporate job more difficult.

Manhattan teens can rake in $7 to $10 an hour for kiddie care, well above the minimum wage.

A number of Internet Web sites offer job search services for sitters, but the best way to find work is to put the word out with family friends or post ads at your local community group or religious organization.

Marketing companies can be a good source of summer work for teens, said Shawn Boyer, the CEO of, a Web site that posts ads for hourly jobs.

Last summer, one such company launched a campaign for Bubble Yum gum that used teen workers and paid $10 to $12 an hour, he said.

Working as a lifeguard can earn high school-aged kids well above the minimum wage, so its something strong swimmers and sun worshippers should consider.

The city Parks & Recreation Department pays $10.71 per hour for first-year recruits.

Candidates need to be at least 16 and have to pass an initial exam that includes vision and swim tests. These exams will be held twice daily during the first week in April.

After a 40-hour training course, lifeguards are expected to work an eight-hour day six days a week.

Summer resort areas like beaches and country clubs are ripe with stores and restaurants eager for help during their peak months, and they may be willing to pay more to recruit workers, Ward said.

Check with local community groups.

The West Side YMCA hires 25 high school students every summer who are at least in their sophomore year in high school. Each student gets $2,000 and a summer internship at places like Goldman Sachs, New York University and law firms around the city. Hopefuls can apply at the group's teen center on W. 63rd St.

Day and overnight camps are another steady source of summer jobs for teens.

While they may not be the best way to fill the coffers for college, they can be good résumé builders. There is at times the potential for additional tips from grateful parents, although policies on tipping range from camp to camp.

At the 92nd Street Y, kids going into the 11th grade can earn $900 for the summer, and those going into the 12th grade earn $1,400 as camp counselors. They work from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. for about 7 1/2 weeks. The group, which hires 75 to 100 teens to work at its camp in Rockland County, and is now taking applications.

Teens with prior experience working with kids and a commitment to an activity like a sport or hobby will often have the best shot, said Alan Saltz, director of the group's camp programs. "We're looking for the best role models."