Kids to see plenty of options at school job fair

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As another school year draws to a close and the summer season approaches, students at East Hampton High School have lots of choices in the local seasonal job market.

Living in a seasonal economy—with business owners often in need of unskilled labor during the summer—high schoolers in East Hampton can look to a variety of restaurants, hotels, camps, and retailers for summer employment.

Today, April 9, more than 40 local employers are expected to take part in the fourth annual East Hampton High School Job Fair beginning at 9 a.m. in the gymnasium, where students will be able to find out what opportunities are available and business people will be able to see who is interested in them.

Debbie Mansir, the director of the school’s School to Work/Community Service program—which helps set up kids with employment, community service, and internship opportunities—started the job fair three years ago.

The participants include restaurants, ice cream shops, resorts, camps, police departments, banks, and a variety of retailers. About 80 percent of the employers are looking for summertime help, according to Ms. Mansir, while the remaining 20 percent are seeking year-round workers.

During the job fair, representatives from businesses and organizations set up tables at which students of all grade levels can get information or set up future interviews.

“I don’t think there is any shortage of things to do here” for high school kids, Ms. Mansir said in a phone interview. “Because of our situation here, there is certainly the ability to do very well in a service business, or anything that has to do with a resort business.”

Ms. Mansir said that she started the job fair due to interest from local employees, who would call her office or stop her on the street to ask if she knew of anyone who might be looking for work. To bring business owners to the event, she sends invitations to various employers across the area.

Janice Nessel, a general manager at the Montauk Manor resort, is among those coming to the job fair today. She said that she is looking to hire four high school kids to work as lifeguards and at the front desk over the summer. With many better paying opportunities available in the restaurant industry or other businesses, Ms. Nessel said, it isn’t always easy to find kids who want to work at a resort.

“I’ve run an ad in the paper for the last four weeks” for a lifeguard, Ms. Nessel said. “I think we had one applicant, and it was from up the island.”

Some businesses owners in East Hampton have said that they are facing labor shortages due to an inability of foreign born workers to obtain temporary visas for the season. Ms. Mansir said she has seen an increase in the number of hotel and resort-owners who are coming to the job fair. Still, as of Friday, only three resort companies—Dune Management, which owns 11 resorts in East Hampton; Montauk Manor, and Snug Harbor Motel in Montauk—were signed up.

Ms. Nessel said she was able to obtain all eight temporary visas, also known as H2B visas, that she required, despite the regional shortage of them. But she added that many others resorts will be facing hard times this summer because of problems with getting as many visas as they need.

“A lot of these people are really going to be in a bind,” she said.

For some, coming to the job fair is more than simply an opportunity to look for potential workers.

Frank Calvo, who owns East Hampton Pharmacy in the village and is attending the fair, said he was “personally honored” to receive an invitation from Ms. Mansir and to be acknowledged as a “key member of the community.”

Mr. Calvo said that he already has two high school kids working in his store and would like to hire three or four more. He would pay them initially between $8 and $10 an hour, he said.

“Kids need mentors, and I like being a mentor,” Mr. Calvo said.

For other business owners, some challenge lies in finding the right teenagers to work for them.

“The problem sometimes is finding the right people … who want to work and that feel it’s important to have a sense of responsibility,” said Nancy Singer, the owner of Turtle Crossing, who is sending a representative from her restaurant to the job fair. “At that age, it’s a little more difficult to find than at a professional level.”

Although most employers are looking primarily for summer help, Ms. Mansir said a few businesses and organizations want to hire kids for positions that would most likely run the entire year.

Local non-profit Project MOST is looking for group leaders for its after-school programs, and Bridgehampton National Bank and Suffolk County National Bank are both coming to the fair in search of tellers.

Ms. Mansir said she sees plenty of interest in hiring high school graduates for full-time work, but noted that unless kids plan on staying at home or can move into a family business, it can be difficult for them to making a living here and shoulder the high cost of living.

“If you are a high school graduate, unless you have a very highly skilled trade background … even making $20 an hour is not going to cut it our here,” Ms. Mansir said.

At least one employer finds that finding interest among kids can be a little too tough.

Kathleen D’Amore, a senior personnel analyst for the Suffolk County Department of Civil Service, came to the job fair the past two years, but said the lack of interest that students showed and the distance she had to travel made her decide against taking the trip from Hauppauge this year.

“Most of them don’t want us because there is so much employment in East Hampton,” said Ms. D’Amore. “There is so much competition.”

Ms. D’Amore said that she tries to encourage kids to take the Civil Service exam for entry-level office positions or employment with the county parks department. She explained that, with many students in East Hampton going off to college and looking to find local work over the summer, only two or three kids even came by her table last year.

Still, having so many other opportunities locally can have its downside.

With so many decent paying jobs available each summer, Ms. Mansir said, kids may get a false impression of what work is like across the entire country.

“I think it gives our kids a very skewed outlook of what’s in the real world,” Ms. Mansir said. “They are making $12 and $15 an hour. And that’s just not what’s out there.”

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