Employers explain benefits and downsides to student employees

Jordan Overmyer

With summer around the corner, many students are beginning to look for jobs. They put away the textbooks and look to fill their open schedule with a summer job.

However, people often don’t think about what the employer’s perspectives are on having high school students in the workplace.

“One of the things I really like about hiring high school students is getting them into a positive work environment for one of their first jobs,” said Cody Moody, store director of the Nugget Market located in Tiburon.

Jennifer Torres, owner of Candy Store on Main Street in Tiburon, said that one advantage of hiring high school students is that their schedules are generally open on the weekends, which is the busiest time for the store.

“They don’t work during the week or after school. They usually have a lot of free time on the weekends, so we tend to hire them part-time. That way, they can do their studies and still make some extra spending money,” Torres said.

Nugget Market also schedules high schoolers on the evenings and weekends which is when they need courtesy clerks because it’s the busiest time for the store, according to Moody.

Torres also said that an advantage of hiring students is that they are quick learners and very hard working.

“The original reason I choose to hire high school students was I’m a Redwood graduate as well and I wanted to give back because one of my first jobs was working at Baskin-Robbins,” said Elliott Magnuson, owner of Mag’s Local Yogurt.  “So I wanted to give kids these days the opportunity that I had when I was a high schooler.”

Torres has noticed that female employees seem to work a little harder than males.

“We’ve had a lot of girl and boy employees, but the girls seem to last longer,” Torres said. “It’s not that we fire them. It’s usually that the [male] employees decide they don’t want to continue working because they would rather spend time with their friends.”

According to Magnuson a lot of the employees, especially females, have babysat before therefore are really good with the younger customers.

When hiring students, Torres said that she looks for good references, past experience, and how flexible their hours are.

The pay for Candy Store on Main employees are equal for teenagers and adults  but receive more applications from high school students than adults.

At Nugget Market, high schoolers can work as courtesy clerks, which involves bagging groceries, helping customers find items, retrieving shopping carts, and generally keeping the store clean.

“The courtesy clerk position is a very entry-level position,” Moody said. “It caters to high school students.”

Moody said that he looks for two qualities when hiring: the ability to have a positive attitude and the second is a sense of urgency.

“When I say sense of urgency I mean someone who stays busy, someone who is constantly working hard, finding tasks to do, and moving with a purpose,” Moody said.

A typical shift at the candy store involves ringing up people at the cash register, scooping ice cream, and restocking the candy bins.  

“They’re more lively. They have more conversation with a customer and tend to have more in common, because we do get a lot of young customers,” Moody said.

Although high school employees have flexible weekend schedules and bring a youthful attitude, there are downsides to hiring them as well.  

“It can be a problem if we have someone young working and the older person is out of the room. Sometimes customers might take advantage of the situation and say something bold or try to get away with something,” Torres said.

Torres said they always have at least one adult working in addition to a high school student.

A few years ago, a senior in high school who had worked at the store for almost two years was working alone for the last half hour before the store closed.

“She had a customer that came in and tried to use a money order for $300 and she took it and it turns out that it was a false money order,” said Torres.

The store does not accept money orders, certificates that give the holder on-demand cash, but since she accepted the money order the customer got the $300 worth of product.

“I tell them all the time, ‘Don’t let anyone tell you how to do your job,’” Torres said.

According to Magnuson, since Mag’s is located close to Redwood many of the employees’ friends come in because they all live and go to school close by.

“It’s very social and that can be a positive or a negative depending on if they’re paying more attention to their friends as opposed to their job. That can be frustrating sometimes,” said Magnuson.

According to Torres, the biggest disadvantage is that high school students graduate and businesses lose them when they leave for college.

Another difficulty is that, like many teenagers, they have a hard time putting away their cell phones. Cell phones aren’t allowed “on the floor” when working, except when they’re on break or lunch hour.

“I’ve caught employees with their cell phones in their pockets, texting behind the door, and having a hard time not responding to a message,” Torres said.

For Magnuson, scheduling high school students are a challenge due to factors such as sports, after school activities, or clubs.

“It’s a big juggle for kids this age to throw a job into the mix because it’s usually the last thing on their priority list,” Magnuson said. “Family is number one, school is number two, sports are number three, and job is usually number four.”

Magnuson goes through a rigorous process before he hires students to make sure they can balance their schedule with school and factor in a job.

“I’ve had a few that just couldn’t do that and their grades fell. They didn’t have time to work so I gave them a break but either lowering their hours or sometimes it’s not the right fit,” Magnuson said.