Jeff Wild started washing dishes at a restaurant many years ago as his first job. Now, he is the owner of Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center.

That first job is one of the many reasons Wild sees the importance of jobs for teenagers.

“Jobs get them started in life and teach them responsibility,” he said. Showing up for shifts on time, staying safe in the workplace, learning how to request time off and going through training for customer service are some skills teens can learn.

“It’s a tremendous learning curve, especially for the younger ones."

Despite their busy schedules, many teenagers in Alexandria are finding the time to work this summer.

Arrowwood hires more than 100 teenagers each year to fill positions such as servers, bartenders, water park lifeguards, recreation department employees for the summer.

Teens’ availability in the summer is great, since that's Arrowwood's busiest time and it wouldn't be able to do what it does without them, Wild said. However, the hiring process can be difficult because of teenagers’ increased interest in sports, activities and camps.

“We’ve had to hire more kids in recent years than we have in the past to fill the shifts we need,” he said.

The state unemployment rate for people age 16-19 dropped sharply, from 18.6 percent in 2012 to 5.4 percent in 2018, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. The population of teenagers of working age has grown by 13,900 over those six years and the number of employed teens has grown by 38,800.

In west-central Minnesota, teens worked an average of 151 hours in the third quarter of 2017 (July through September) and earned a median wage of $10.43 per hour.

Oriane Casale, DEED's assistant director of the labor market information office, said the third quarter is when the highest number of teens work and when they work the most hours, representing 25% of the summer work force.

'Natural networkers'

Casale said teens are natural networkers. She said the best way for employers to find teenagers to hire is to ask current teen employees to tell their friends about job openings.

Jacob Bright, a 17-year-old from West Central Area High School, got a job as a go-kart attendant at Casey’s Amusement Park because a friend there had invited him to apply for the job.

He said all of his friends have jobs, from lawn mowing to working at gas stations or, helping their family with farm work.

He drives 24 minutes to the job, and with his busy schedule, making everything work is one of his biggest challenges. He goes to the gym to lift weights and play basketball most mornings and then works most afternoons and evenings at Casey’s.

“If I work until close one night and then have to wake up early for lifting the next day, that’s sometimes hard,” Bright said. In June and July he also works as a little league instructor for baseball.

“(The teen’s job) can’t interfere with school, it can’t interfere with their health, it can’t interfere with their sleep. It’s easier for older kids to be able to manage a schedule like that, and it’s just harder for younger kids,” Casale said. She said it’s up to parents to decide what is best for their child.

Having a job has positive benefits for most teenagers, Casale said. And it is a good way to make money, Bright said.

“It teaches you how to get through challenges and how to work hard for something,” he said.

Casale said teens are very sensitive to what their friends are doing. This notion rings true for Brendan Oberg, head lifeguard at Arrowwood. He said last year, when he was 16, it was easy to hang out with his friends because not all of them had jobs. This year, it is difficult to see them because they’re all working.

He heard about the lifeguard job opportunity from a friend, was hired in February and after a few months was promoted to head lifeguard.

Oberg is planning on going into a career in the medical field, specifically being a pararescueman in the Air Force, so helping others as a lifeguard interested him.

“If there’s an issue, I’m right there to respond to it,” he said. “It makes me feel important doing something to help the community.”

He said that the work dynamic can be tough because he’s only 17 and in charge of so many other lifeguards, some of which are much older than him.

However, he enjoys the people he works with and management treats him well. Wild often stops by his post, asking if everything is going well, which Oberg appreciates.

He plans to keep working at Arrowwood over the school year during the weekends, most likely until he graduates and starts attending college.

“Having a job (as a teen) sets you up for later in life,” he said.

Learning future skills

Hunter Rebrovich, 19, also thinks people his age should have jobs. “It’s good to learn skills that you’ll need for the future, real world.”

Rebrovich is in his fourth summer working inside the pro shop of Geneva Golf Club. He also works outside maintaining the golf course and moving golf carts.

“I have a few friends who work on the grounds crew and the pro shop,” he said. “I like being a part of a team and working with a lot of good people.”

Katlyn Plecity, also an employee of Casey’s Amusement Park, said her favorite part of the job is working with the other employees as well. She said most of her friends go out and get jobs; it’s the teens who live on farms who don’t.

She also said it’s good for teenagers to have summer jobs to learn how to get along with people and develop a good work ethic. She also said jobs can teach people how to do things like managing money on their own.