Low unemployment creates new opportunities for students

Michael Seton

Many Redwood students ditch their summer jobs in autumn as they turn their attention to academics, sports and club activities. But working during school is making more sense for teens this year as employers have become more eager to hire and retain students. Colleges also increasingly recognize the benefits of student employment.

According to the California Employment Development Department, the local job market is hotter than ever, with Marin County’s July 2.1 percent unemployment rate the lowest it has been in July since 1990. The unemployment rate for California teens is also the lowest it’s been in the last decade, leading to more opportunities for part-time workers. College & Career Specialist Becky Bjursten has noticed the changing trend.

Images from Yelp. Graphic by Michael Seton

“Many places are looking for more workers. Right now, a lot of areas of Marin County are understaffed,” Bjursten said.

Students have noticed how effortless it is to get a job. Senior Ayden Ji works at Cost Plus World Markets in Larkspur and has observed that it is fairly simple for students to get hired. Ji has referred three friends to his employer and all of them have quickly gotten jobs at the store.

“What I’ve noticed with Cost Plus World Market is that they seem a little bit desperate,” Ji said. “Their interviews are only two minutes long. It’s really quick and easy, and it’s just two questions.”

Employers acknowledge it is more difficult to find part-time workers today. Cost Plus World Markets store manager Ron Gibson noted COVID-19 has created more remote working options for older workers. Because older workers generally prefer to work from home, the demographics of his part-time employees have changed.

“Our hiring age has gotten lower, so we have more teenagers employed than we have had in the past,” Gibson said. He added that young people are ready to learn and willing to work hard — both are positive factors for him.

This increased demand is creating new benefits for teen workers. Senior Timur Kotelnikov has noticed how flexible his employer has been. Although he has worked at Cost Plus World Markets in Larkspur for only seven months, he has already received a pay increase. They are also very willing to accommodate his school schedule.

Helping a customer, Ayden Ji and Timur Kotelnikov work the checkout counter at Cost Plus World Markets. (Photo by Michael Seton)

“I pick the hours and they make it fit, so it’s pretty convenient for me,” Kotelnikov said.

Not only is it easy to find work, but Bjursten indicates that a part-time job can be valued  as highly as traditional high school extracurriculars by college admissions officers. Colleges realize students can learn a whole different skill set while working. 

“You learn a lot about responsibility and prioritization,” Bjursten said.

Ji and Kotelnikov both mentioned that in their retail jobs they have learned new communication and people skills. Having to work with a variety of people and personalities has helped them develop resilience and overcome the lingering effects of COVID-19 shutdowns and virtual school.

“I’m definitely learning how to handle people. I’m talking to a lot of people every day, and that helps me get more comfortable with talking, especially after quarantine where everybody was on Zoom and there was not a lot of socialization. It helped me get back into the groove of normal life faster,” Ji said.

These days there are a myriad of benefits from part-time employment to consider before walking away from a summer job. For those who are interested, Bjursten encourages students to check out her job board in the Career Center and to use her as a brainstorming resource to help find what they are looking for.