When the economy goes down, the number of people looking
for seasonal and part-time employment goes up. Sure enough,
that’s been the case this year at many pools and
waterparks. Rising unemployment and few part-time retail
jobs means many operators have been inundated with
résumés and job applications.
With so many applicants, many aquatics professionals are
experiencing an unprecedented opportunity to be selective.
A greater number of candidates allows operators to broaden
the overall diversity among their staffs and, as a result,
employees who show up to work in the next few weeks may
look and act somewhat differently than those in the
“We’ve definitely had a much bigger
influx,” said Kate Storch, executive marketing
manager at The Beach Waterpark in Mason, Ohio.
Many industry professionals such as Storch have changed
their employment strategies to better manage larger pools
of applicants with all kinds of experience. For instance,
The Beach held two job fairs and streamlined the
application process this year.
Perhaps the biggest change this season is who’s
applying — and it’s not just teenagers
and college students.
The down economy means “you’re going
to find people who normally look for full-time [work]
looking for part-time,” said Ann Troxell, a
leading member of the Staffing Management Association of
Southern California (an affiliate of the Society for Human
Resource Management) and senior client director at Bayard
Advertising, a Los Angeles-based national agency
specializing in employment communications.
That was the case for Rapids Water Park in Riviera
Beach, Fla., which had 15 job openings and received more
than 1,000 applicants — plenty from nontraditional
candidates — according to reports. In Arizona,
prior to a March job fair, Jeff Golner, a spokesman for
Golfland Sunsplash in Mesa and Big Surf Waterpark in Tempe,
told local media he expected more older applicants as a
result of the current economy.
Are those adults with more experience edging out the
younger applicants? In at least some cases, the answer is
“National employment statistics do indicate
that the employment rates for teens and young people has
been affected by the downturn and a more competitive job
market,” said Jennifer Schramm, manager of
Workplace Trends and Forecasting, Society for Human
Resource Management, based in Alexandria, Va.
“According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the
number of employed workers ages 16 to 24 has fallen by 2
million over the past two years, to 18.3 million. And the
national unemployment rate for people ages 20 to 24 was
12.9 percent in February, up from 9 percent a year
Troxell said the likely scenario this summer is that
younger workers may lose out on management opportunities.
It could be because an older worker has been brought in, or
a recent college grad — who ordinarily might have
moved on to full-time employment — has come back
for “one more summer.”
But Storch isn’t so quick to discount the young
people. As a result of the added competition, even the
teenagers she’s seen are taking their job searches
much more seriously. “There’s been a lot
of coaching going on,” she said.
Because most jobs at aquatics facilities are
lifeguarding positions requiring certifications and
training, Storch said her staff probably will still be the
traditional younger demographic. However, she expects that
being able to staff up early as a result of the flood of
candidates will mean a more qualified, cohesive team.
“We used to go to great lengths to get enough
applicants to look at and create the same environment where
we could be selective, Storch said. “[This year]
we haven’t had to work hard to generate quality