REGION Experts: Jobs for teens are plentiful

College and vocational students are often at an advantage in finding higher-paying summer positions.
BOARDMAN -- Inside the food court at Southern Park Mall, Jason Colkitt sat sipping a drink, reflecting on his summer job search.
The results haven't been pretty.
"I'm not having much luck," said the South Range student, who has applied to more than a half-dozen places. "Most places aren't hiring, and if they are, it's only for a few hours a week."
But Colkitt, 17, isn't worried -- and may not need to be. A slumping economy and a rising unemployment rate aren't expected to hurt teens searching for jobs this summer, said Keith Ewald, chief of the Bureau of Labor Market Information at the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
"It's still a very strong market for teen-agers," Ewald said. "We don't expect the current economic downturn to dramatically affect things."
Seasonal jobs: The reason, Ewald said, is teens tend to work at places that do well in the summer. Restaurants, movie theaters, ice cream stands and country clubs see increases in business, and rely heavily on teen-agers for their summer work force. Teens also find work in construction, painting, retail and landscaping.
"With those areas, any economic downturn usually happens down the line," Ewald said.
Thousands of positions: An option gaining popularity for teen-agers is amusement parks. Cedar Point and Six Flags World of Adventure, both of which opened last weekend, must fill 4,000 to 5,000 positions each summer. Teens take a large portion of those openings.
"You generally don't need job experience," said Katja Rall-Koepke, director of human resources at Cedar Point. "We're looking for kids who like working with people, who are dependable, trustworthy and give good customer service."
Cedar Point offers student housing for about $30 a month and pays around $6.25 an hour, with bonuses. Six Flags, which bought SeaWorld last year, pays about $7 an hour but does not offer housing. Positions are available for 14- and 15-year-olds, but most workers are 16 or older. Students work about 50-60 hours per week.
"We also get a lot of people who are returnees," said Kim Stover, a spokeswoman for Six Flags. "Our employees have a great time and are eager to come back."
Other sectors: Seasonal jobs might remain steady, but some fear it could be harder to find work at offices or factories, which have been hit harder by the slumping economy.
"I think companies are more selective now," said Michael Lesch, a manager at Staff Right Personnel Services. "It's similar to the early '90s when the country was going through a recession."
Staff Right and other employment agencies focus on older workers, primarily because teen-agers run a higher risk. Labor laws, safety risks and limited availability are factors that make it unattractive to hire teens, Lesch said.
"Still, we try to help them out if we can," Lesch said. "I've had at least three or four calls today from college students who need help finding summer work."
Have an advantage: College and vocational students are often at an advantage in finding higher-paying positions. Those students usually have extra knowledge or experience, which leads to internships or jobs in their field. Ewald suggests preparing a r & eacute;sum & eacute; or compiling personal information to make the process more efficient.
"It shortens the job-search time," Ewald said.
For those still having trouble finding work, many fast-food restaurants have increased their wages and are looking to hire a number of teen-agers.
Just don't expect to see Colkitt in a McDonald's uniform anytime soon.
"I don't think I'd go that far," he said.