FAIRFIELD — The era of the summer job may be coming to an end.
More and more young people are seeking employment beyond just the summer months when they’re not in school. Despite the difficulties young people had finding work during the economic downturn, they continue to look for work for varying reasons.
Hundreds of people including teens and 20-somethings flocked on a recent Saturday to a pair of hiring events hosted by Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.
Thadius Prescott, 16, of Benicia, was one of those. Prescott, who was seeking a spot in the food service department at the Vallejo theme park, said it wasn’t just a summer job he was seeking.
“Weekends for now and hopefully it’ll be a summer job,” he said.
Whatever he lands, it will be his first job. Prescott said he hopes to gain valuable experience.
“Pretty much get the feel for working, being assigned to do something and then doing it and I guess learning how to manage money,” he said. “That’s a great (thing) to know, and working with people and taking in all this experience.”
A self-described people person, Prescott said he chose food services on the recommendation of friends.
“I have friends who work in food services and they said they enjoyed it, it was cool,” he said. “I’m great talking with people, I enjoy (conversing) and whatnot.”
He’s not the only person his age looking for work or already working.
“I have a lot of friends who are working right now and a few who are looking right now,” Prescott said. “I see more people doing summer jobs. ‘You’re free. Hey, why not get a job?’ ”
As hiring picks up, that may get easier for young people, who have had a tough time during the Great Recession.
According to numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, youth unemployment peaked in April 2010 at 19.6 percent nationally. In 2013, that number dropped to 17.85 percent, but it remained well above the national average of 6.3 percent for 25- to 54-year-olds.
Despite challenges such as the recession, some young people are determined to find work.
Shawnie Geisler of Dixon, a senior at Da Vinci Charter Academy in Davis, also hoped to get into the food services department at Six Flags.
“I would like some work experience for the most part and I really enjoy going to Six Flags,” Geisler, 17, said.
For Geisler, looking for work is also about the experience.
“I personally just want the experience of learning how to work with other people more and to prepare food for other people,” she said. “I originally also wanted to work with the animal side of things, but I realized (that) department wasn’t here so I switched to food services.”
If she lands it, it would also be her first job.
As for working just in the summer or continually, she agreed with Prescott.
“I am pretty much looking for both. Mostly I don’t like to work on Sundays, but I like working on Saturdays and definitely during the summer, I’ll be free for a lot of the summer,” Geisler said.
Geisler said she’s also prepared for the inevitable challenge of balancing work with school.
“A lot of the times it can be difficult. I know because I’m a senior I don’t have to take as many classes so I have more time during the day to work, but it can be difficult especially to (balance) homework and other after-school activities with work sometimes,” she said.
There’s also pressure from above to find work.
“I definitely feel a lot of pressure, especially from my parents,” Geisler said. ” ‘Get a job,’ they tell me.”
At the higher end of the youth spectrum, 24-year-old Cindy Young actually landed a job in guest relations at Discovery Kingdom. Young, a Fairfield resident and Solano Community College student, said the job will be ideal for her.
“I’ve been finding it hard to get a job because I’m in school. I need something that allows me to go to school and start work,” she said. “So this, having a weekend position is actually ideal.”
She said she’ll do the job for at least six months, through the end of the summer and decide then if she wants to continue.
“I’m applying to go to (the University of California,) Davis, so if I get in there we’ll see how that would work out,” Young said.
For some recent high school graduates, entering the workforce has had some challenges.
Laura Medina has worked since she was 16. Her first job was at Six Flags, but now she works at G by Guess at the Solano Town Center mall.
“Working in the beginning was really hard,” the 19-year-old said. “I didn’t know what my employers wanted of me.”
Working and attending Country High School in Vacaville held its own challenges.
“People had to cover my shifts because I couldn’t work some hours because of school,” she said.
Recent Vacaville High School graduate Tyler Rapolla just started working at Macy’s at the mall and finds it a learning experience – mostly in time-management.
“While I was in school, organizing my time was tough,” he said. “But today its easier.”
Youth work pattern emerges
The quest among youth for something beyond summer employment suits Six Flags.
“We can employ longer – a longer time and it’s not just a summer job anymore,” said Tami Thompson, general sales manager at Discovery Kingdom.
Those doing the hiring seemed to be looking for people to stick around beyond the summer months.
“That makes it ideal for younger people,” Thompson said. “It’s a great first job for the youth because they get to learn whatever skill they want to learn is what we can offer, too.”
Ian Stall, human resources manager for Six Flags, said those who start as seasonal workers often choose to stay on, sometime permanently.
“Speaking from my own experience, this is my ninth year working for Six Flags. I started out as a seasonal team member and developed into a management role,” Stall said. “I actually switched departments into HR, so that wasn’t where I started. And I see that along the lines of what a lot of our team members end up doing.”
While there’s no one type of person who comes to Stall to ask about employment, he said young people are the majority.
“We see a lot more from our high school students that they’re excited to be here,” he said. “Because they’ve coming here since they were younger. They’re waiting for that 16th birthday to roll around so they can apply.”
Susan Hiland contributed to this report. Reach the newsroom at 425-4646.