When School Goes In, Seasonal Help Goes Out

Celebrate seasonal workers - and keep 'em coming back for more! © Can Stock Photo Inc. / maron

Celebrate seasonal workers – and keep ‘em coming back for more!

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / maron

School will be starting this month and while stay-at-home parents may be celebrating, parks and rec departments are lamenting the exodus of seasonal help as high school and college students – and teachers – head back to the classrooms.

Think about it; what would parks and rec departments do without that extra influx of staff to accommodate the expansion of youth programs for the summer season? From camp counselors and interns to extra help with maintenance and field preparations, seasonal hires help keep the proverbial recreational boat afloat.

The young men and women who apply for summer jobs in recreation tend to be outgoing, motivated and generally likeable people, so it’s easy to get attached to them. Some of them plan careers in recreation and getting real-world experience in the field gives them invaluable insight. In rare cases, the summer experience turns into a job offer after college in the department where they cut their teeth in the field.

Many of them return summer after summer, so they become part of the family. Parks and rec pros watch them mature and develop, sometimes from early teens to early adulthood. For some of us older geezers (over 30), it’s like watching your own kids grow up.

With little exception, in my experience, it’s hard to say adios to them when it’s time to go; it’s like that commercial on TV where the man is instructing his young adult daughter about safe driving, but he sees a little girl sitting behind the wheel.

It isn’t only teenagers who win hearts and minds during the summer. Teachers, some of them barely out of their teens, make excellent seasonal recreational hires. They have training and experience with children that is simply invaluable and a level of maturity that gives permanent staff a high level of confidence in their ability to handle situations as they arise.

I’ve personally witnessed more than one occasion where a summer hire started as a teenager, worked summer after summer, finished high school and college, started a teaching job and then came back to be a counselor during the summer break. Wow! What an asset; somebody with experience, formal training, outside work skills and the desire to work.

Because many summer hires are repeat employees, the kids in the summer programs who come back year after year develop an affinity for particular counselors. I remember when my kids were young they would come home and talk about this counselor or that counselor, how cool they were, how great they were, etc.

Indeed, these summer surrogates can have a great deal of influence on the young children who they oversee for several hours a day, five days a week during the summer. The children look up to them and often adopt them as role models, so it is important that their performance is worthy of such emulation.

This level of “brand equity” is great for a department and will ensure that moms and dads will rush to get their kids signed up early and often so they can get first dibs on their favorite summer hero.

Summer hires are generally easy on the budget as well – an important factor in providing quality recreation services in today’s fiscal environment. They are generally classified as part-time or seasonal part-time, which normally doesn’t involve a huge benefits package. In many cases they are self-supporting, in that the fees charged for the programs cover, or nearly cover, salary expenses.

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