PITTSBURGH – As companies have taken “closed for an indefinite period” signs out of their windows and reopened, the landscape of a post-pandemic workforce is changing and dependent on an unexpected demographic – teens.
Adolescents have become one of the most important segments of the workforce. The Associated Press reported that in May, 33.2% of teenagers aged 16 to 19 were in the national labor force, the highest figure for teenage workers since the Great Recession of 2008.
âAfter the pandemic, we are probably facing the biggest personnel crisis of my life, and I have been in the industry for almost 50 years. “ said John Longstreet, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association. âA lot of people left the industry and got jobs doing other things. Additionally, many restaurants have not been able to weather the pandemic. “
Institutions have struggled to serve all those who want to make up for lost time due to the pandemic, Longstreet said.
“The biggest challenge for restaurants now is having enough team members in the house to be able to serve all the guests who wish to enter” said Longstreet. âThere are a lot of pent-up demands. “
Before covid-19, there were approximately 580,000 Pennsylvanians employed in food service and catering, according to the Restaurant Association. During the pandemic, up to two-thirds of those jobs were either temporarily or completely cut.
The National Restaurant Association looked at data from the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics and found that restaurants created 186,000 jobs nationwide as of May.
Yet the industry is struggling to find enough workers.
Desiree Singleton, owner of Harvest Moon Coffee & Chocolates in Tarentum, employs workers aged 16 to 25.
One of them is Courtney Collins.
Collins, 19, has been in the workforce since he was 15. She still works for the catering company she started with, Chef & I Catering in Brackenridge. But two years ago, at age 17, Collins landed a second job at a restaurant before finding work at Harvest Moon when the store opened at the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
“The way the economy is now, things aren’t so cheap for people my age anymore,” Collins said. âI started working to make sure I had money set aside for school, a car and that I could do the things I wanted.
âI think young people are really expected to work now because of the focus on money. And for many, money means success.
Nick Moretti, 17, is not in the restaurant industry but rather in the retail business.
He is nearing the end of his second year at Learning Express Toys in the Galleria du Mont. Lebanon. The elder ascending to Mt. The LycÃ©e du Liban said having a job at its age is normal, if not expected.
“I have the impression that having a job is very important in high school at the moment”, Moretti said. âI can’t really explain why. You just don’t want to be the only friend who doesn’t have a job. People my age want jobs so you can do things like it’s something to be proud of.
Encourage the workforce
As the need for workers continues to increase, employers are using incentives and signing bonuses to attract employees.
âI’ve seen up to $ 1,000 in sign-up bonuses for people who are willing to take a job and stay for a while. “ said Longstreet.
The incentives are not limited to the restaurant industry. Palace Entertainment spokesman Nick Paradise, whose company operates Kennywood Park, Idlewild & SoakZone and Sandcastle Water Park, said the parks offer seasonal employees a bonus of $ 1.25 for every hour worked during the summer. if the employee fulfills his obligation.
“We are currently in a tight and competitive job market, associated with consumer demand for the experiences we offer” said Paradis. âWe recognized that we needed to do more to ensure we got the right quantity and quality of applicants. “
The three amusement parks include the largest employer of youth in southwestern Pennsylvania, with around 2,000 employees in the summer of 2021 and 26% between the ages of 16 and 17, Paradise said.
âWe have certainly seen a lot more requests coming inâ, said Paradis. âWe offer a wide variety of positions. It’s a great way to get a foothold in the industry. I’ve seen people who started out in cotton candy or other entry-level roles move up the ranks in the attractions industry.
Earlier this year, Palace Entertainment granted job seekers four free seasonal passes to the parks, worth around $ 75 per pass. The parks also host multiple appreciation activities, meals and game nights for employees.
Savannah Berardi, 20, of Irwin, enjoys the bonuses offered to her and her colleagues from Idlewild.
“The first 10 shifts you work, you receive a $ 100 gift card” Berardi explained, with options like Target, Giant Eagle, Amazon, and GetGo. âTo work five or more hours on July 16, 17, or 18, you can get a $ 25 gift card, and I’m scheduled for all three.
“I think it’s a very good idea” said Berardi. âWe’ve had issues with people calling, so that encourages people to come and work more. I hope this will make people come to work instead of having to beg people.
Before working with the amusement park, Berardi spent five years at the Murrysville Dunkin ‘Donuts. After returning home from Florida Gulf Coast University due to the pandemic, the Penn-Trafford graduate returned to work at Dunkin.
â(Dunkin ‘) taught me a lot of people and social skills. I was quite shy before I started working, and it made me come out of my shell â, said Berardi. âI learned to be responsible and reliable. I think I only canceled twice in all my years of work.
According to Longstreet, the decade of the 2020s is expected to see the weakest growth in the working-age population in 120 years. This will inevitably have an impact on all sectors of the economy, he said.
“Teens have an impact on the industry because they are ready for jobs that not everyone is ready for.” said Longstreet. âIt’s a win-win scenario. It gives a young person the opportunity to earn money, get a good work experience and it helps to fill the manpower shortage that we are facing.