Looking for a summer job?
Peer no further than your local summer getaway or recreational center, which have begun advertising in the cold of winter to fill seasonal positions, some of which went unfilled last year due to a nationwide worker shortage that many fear will persist into the crucial summer months.
Employees can expect to make $15 an hour or more at some attractions, as employers hike wages and offer bonuses in hopes of avoiding the closures, reduced hours and longer lines that plagued everything from municipal pools to theme parks last summer.
“In 2021, we experienced significant staffing issues at the pool and within our summer camp due to increased competition for young employees,” read a recent advertisement for lifeguards in Lower Makefield. “Young employees can work in a variety of businesses with higher wages, and where the lives of the patrons do not count on their abilities.”
The township Department of Park and Recreation Director Monica Tierney said the department is looking to hire 130 staff members and is having a hard time filling all the vacancies.
“It’s always a challenge to get trained lifeguards, as they leave and won’t be lifeguards forever,” Tierney said. “We always hire early for lifeguards, which surprises some people. But it requires a lot of background checks, certain training and a certain skillset.”
The pandemic, Tierney said, played havoc with the department’s ability to hire, noting that trainers had problems keeping their certifications current through the shutdown.
“Staffing at the indoor pools were suffering last year and some of the instructor-trainers had to move on to other jobs during the pandemic,” Tierney said. “We are coming back on track now, but we do need lifeguards, and I’d really encourage parents to get their kids trained and look into it.”
The township raised wages from $9.50 an hour to $14.50 an hour, depending on position, from $8.25 to $11.25 an hour.
Last summer’s shortages:Lifeguard shortage putting a damper on Bucks County pool season
Theme parks, tourist destinations in race for summer workers
It’s not just the local pools or summer camps that are feeling the pinch of an industry-wide staffing shortage, as destinations such as Sesame Place, Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom, Peddler’s Village and Six Flags Great Adventures have all begun a push to hire for the summer.
Peddler’s Village is looking to hire roughly 75 individuals for summer positions, said Human Relations Director Kristin Garcia.
“We are always looking to hire, and people know Peddler’s Village is a great place to work,” Garcia said. “But it has been hard to fill some positions, especially given the ongoing pandemic.”
Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom in nearby Allentown is planning to hire more than 3,000 seasonal associates as it prepares to open for the 2022 season in May. There, seasonal associates begin at $15 an hour, while associates who have previously worked at Dorney Park can return to their positions at a rehire rate starting at $18 an hour. Pay for security roles start at $20 an hour.
“Our associates play an instrumental role in delivering on our commitment to creating memorable experiences for all of our guests,” said Dorney Park Vice President and General Manager Mike Fehnel.
“We are proud to offer highly competitive wages and amazing perks to all of our associates. In particular, a seasonal job at our park can offer so much more than other workplaces. With flexible scheduling, a job at Dorney Park can accommodate those looking to supplement their primary income with a second job, or for retirees looking for just a few hours each week.”
Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey NJ, plans on hiring 4,000 individuals with pay starting around $15 an hour, and more for scare actors and lifeguards.
“The target number has remained the same for several years, and reflects the number of employees we will hire throughout the season. For example, someone may work with us from March through December, however, others may join us just for the summer while they ‘re home from college, or just pick up extra holiday hours during Holiday in the Park, or only want to perform as a zombie during ‘Fright Fest,”’ said Six Flags spokesperson Kristin Fitzgerald, adding that numbers generally compare to pre- pandemic levels.
Six Flags hires individuals primarily age 16 and up, however have select positions that can accommodate 14 and 15 year olds.
“We focus on domestic hiring, and retention is extremely important to us. We are often the first job for many young people, and we offer many advancement opportunities for them to grow with us into leadership positions.,” Fitzgerald said.
Will worker shortage impact tourism rebound?
The seasonal hiring push comes as the countywide hospitality and tourism industry looks to continue gains while also facing worker shortages.
Those losses were fueled in part by the pandemic and The Great Resignation, where employees by the thousands nationwide left traditional jobs and workplaces to seek out alternative money-making opportunities.
“It does sound early (to be hiring now for the summer), but that has a lot to do with the staffing hurdles facing a lot of businesses and communities, and they are just trying to get ahead of things,” said Visit Bucks County COO Paul Bencivengo. “The summertime is the most tourist-heavy traffic time of the year, and attractions will see a lot more traffic during the summer months.”
According to the tourism bureau, all sectors of the Bucks County economy saw an employment decline in 2020, with about 24,000 total jobs lost. Leisure and hospitality saw the largest decline of any sector, however, falling by 7,200 jobs, or about 30 percent of the total job loss.
Prior to the pandemic, tourism generated more than $1 billion economic impact in the county. In 2020, the county tourism industry took a 27% dip due to COVID closures. To help offset the loss and spur the industry, the county allocated $3 million of its federal CARES Act funds to Visit Bucks to stimulate business at county hotels, motels and other hospitality companies.
Related:Bucks County lures tourists back, but hospitality industry struggles to find workers to greet them
“The COVID-19 pandemic and associated health restrictions led to unprecedented job losses in spring 2020 across geographies and industries. Job losses were largest in the leisure and hospitality sector, and have also provided enduring as the pandemic progressed overall employment began to grow,” read a portion of the Bucks County Tourism: 2020 Visitation and Impact Metrics report. “In Bucks County, the events of the pandemic interrupted a decade of consistent job growth in the leisure and hospitality industry.”
As the pandemic seemed to wane, and before COVID surges after Christmas, the industry was showing strong signs of rebounds, and industry leaders were working to woo workers to support businesses.
In October 2021 occupancy was 73.3%, just under the record 73.5% set in 2019. Average daily hotel rate was $121.95 in October, besting the previous record of $107.92 in 2018.
Numbers for 2021 aren’t yet ready, but Bencivengo believes industry gains will continue, even in the face of challenging workforce conditions.
“We have nothing yet ready for 2021, but all indications, including hotel reservations, shows the county rebounded well in 2021,” Bencivengo said. “Occupancy levels are back to pre-pandemic levels, and I know some of the workforce has been brought back.
“We also realize a lot of our partners such as lodges and hotels are still navigating staffing issues.”