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 past.
“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 “yes.”
“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 ago.”
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 applicants.”