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Learning on the Job

Marketing major and Sherwood Oaks summer worker Ben Brown enjoys his job because it offers variety and gets him outside.
Summer jobs offer invaluable lessons

Labor Day not only traditionally marks the end of summer, but with schools reopened and students returning to classrooms, the holiday also marks the end of summer jobs.

Each summer between 2003 and 2011, the labor force in Pennsylvania increased thanks to an average of 87,000 16- to 19-year-olds looking for work, according to Walter Nichols, statistical analyst with the state Department of Labor and Industry.

The labor pool swells from April until it hits its peak in late June or July, Nichols said.

And, on average, 62,700 16-to-19-year-olds find summer employment in the state, he said.

“We don't have specific data that tracks what industries they enter,” said Nichols “but typically the common perception is they are minimum-wage jobs: clerks, wait staff, landscapers, that sort of thing.”

Since the recession of 2008, Nichols noted that teenagers have not joined the job search in the same numbers as before.

“A lot fewer students are entering the labor force,” said Nichols. “We can't say specifically why that is, but a lot of perception is that the jobs for 16 to 19-year-olds are being taken by older workers. They are considered to be more reliant and more diligent in their work.”

But Renee Iannotti, the business manager at Conley Resort, 740 Pittsburgh Road, doesn't see it that way.

She's responsible for hiring all employees, including the resort's dozen summer workers. She has no problem hiring teen workers.

In fact, she said, “This crew, this is probably their second and third summer with us. We get them back every summer. Actually, they look forward to it. With a lot of youth of today, that's kind of unusual, but they look forward to it. They are our kids.”“It's nice getting to communicate with people. It's laid back. It's a fun job,” said Emily Speakman, 20, an Edinboro University student and 2010 Knoch High School graduate who spent the summer as a bartender and server.“We get to meet a lot of people. When they are staying at the hotel, we get to talk to them and get to know them a little bit,” Speakman said.Her fellow Conley server, Kristan Minehart, 21, a 2009 Butler High School graduate and general studies major at Butler County Community College, said, “I learned that you have to have a lot of people skills and be outgoing. You have to get along with the customers and please them so they come back.”Speakman agreed. “I've developed pretty much my communication skills, just interacting with the public,” she said.“When I was young, 16, and it was my first job, I was pretty shy. I've opened up more, and I can talk to anyone with ease,” said Speakman.David Thinnes, 20, who's heading off to Kent State to major in construction management after graduating with an associate degree from Butler County Community College, said working at Conley for five years, most recently has a desk clerk, has given him skills that will serve him well in his future career.“It's taught me to respect the customers, be on time, learn when your boss says do something, do it right away,” Thinnes said.

Lauren Freimuth, 19, a 2011 Knoch graduate about to enter her sophomore year at West Virginia Wesleyan in Buckhannon, W. Va., agreed her two years of working at Conley as a server and a bartender will help her in her planned nursing career.“I mean you definitely have to be a people person and be outgoing in both jobs,” said Freimuth. “And what I've learned here will help me with that.”Minehart said her experience at Conley's may have convinced her to make a career in the hospitality industry.“I haven't decided yet, but I might because I like working in this business,” Minehart said.Jordan Chepke, 21, of Cranberry Township and a public relations major at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, is also using her summer occupation to gain experience in her chosen field.Working as an intern for the Lutheran Service Society in the North Hills, the 2010 Seneca Valley High School graduate said, “As a marketing intern, I did a ton of different stuff. I got a lot of experience.”“I called local radio stations to get public service announcements out. I spoke with local television stations and newspapers to get press releases out,” said Chepke. “I wrote some press releases and some articles for our website and our newsletter that will be coming out shortly.”

Chepke said, “I get experience in pretty much all aspects of communication. I get to see what I like and what I don't like and it's given me a better idea of what I want to do in the future.”She added that future will include doing public relations or some sort of writing for a nonprofit agency.“That's why I'm trying this one out to make sure that I'm interested,” Chepke said.Ben Brown's job at Sherwood Oaks, 100 Norman Drive, Cranberry Township, as a groundskeeper might not complement his major in marketing at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, but the 20-year-old enjoyed the work for a different reason.“I like being outside all the time and never doing the same thing every day,” said the 2010 Pine-Richland High School graduate. “It's always something different, so it never gets boring.”Brown said he had just finished a weeks-long job on a landscape island, ripping out the old plants, putting in sod and boulders and planting 200 new flowers and shrubs.“I just learned more about plants than I ever knew and all the chemicals that keep them alive,” said Brown.His fellow Sherwood Oaks worker, Andrew Driscoll, 20, of Cranberry Township, also has a job that gets him outside.“I worked in the dining room for three years then switched to housekeeping,” said Driscoll, who will be a junior majoring in safety management at Slippery Rock University this fall. “I'm doing heavy cleaning. We have a team of about seven college students. We go to all the apartments.”

“We clean the windows inside and out, take care of the bathrooms, dust, move the heavy furniture for vacuuming,” said the 2010 Seneca Valley High School graduate. He said his crew can clean six apartments a day.“I did it for the hours,” he said of the jobs switch. “I could be outside more rather than being cooped up in the dining rooms. I could be outside when I was cleaning windows.”Driscoll credits his summer job with teaching him more than how to leave behind streak-free glass.“It will help me that I interacted with a lot of people. I developed people skills,” he said. “My body's used to waking up at 8 a.m. and working eight hours. That will help in the future, too.”Kailey DaLonzo, 19, of Cranberry Township, has worked at Sherwood Oaks since her senior year at Seneca Valley.Now a sophomore occupational therapy major at Gannon University in Erie, she says interacting with residents during her job in the dining room has been good training.Her duties included serving residents their meals, cleaning up after and setting the dining room up for the following day.“Well, it's definitely helped me improve my social skills,” DaLonzo said. “You have to be very formal. It teaches you responsibility, what with calling off and your days of availability.”DaLonzo said she hopes to be working at Sherwood Oaks during college breaks and again next summer, citing the job's flexible hours and chances for both bonuses and winning a scholarship.

College sophomore Kailey DaLonzo has worked at Sherwood Oaks since her senior year at Seneca Valley High School. She said the job has helped her improve her social skills.
Lauren Freimuth, also a Conley summer server, is pursing nursing at West Virginia Wesleyan.
Andrew Driscoll washes windows at Sherwood Oaks, where he has also worked in the dining room. The Slippery Rock University junior says the summer work has helped him to improve his people skills and also get used to the work routine.
Butler County Community College general studies major Kristan Minehart works as a server at Conley Resort.

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