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Teens gear up summer jobs

By Shannon Jenkins

Summertime means extra cash for many teens.

In south metro Atlanta, high school students and soon-to-be graduates are already working or have jobs lined up.

Lynda Taylor, a work-based learning coordinator at Lovejoy High School, said the most common jobs for teens remain in food service and retail.

"Fast-food restaurants are almost always hiring teens who truly want to work," she said. "There are a number of retail stores who still hire young people under 18. Many of the managers of theses businesses realize they are serving their community by hiring young people as well as tapping a source of future managers for their companies."

However, Taylor said more and more businesses are requiring employees to be 18 years of age.

"I think this is primarily a reaction to our current economy," she said. "Five years ago, the economy was much different, and teens literally had their pick of jobs."

But once a person is 18, she said, the job market is very open and receptive.

The city of Riverdale is one summer employer looking to hire youths between the ages of 14 and 16 within the city limits as part of its Mayor's Youth Environment and Conservation Summer Employment Program. Teens will spend the summer protecting, beautifying and improving the city's public property. This is the first year Riverdale has offered the program, and city officials hope to finish raising at least $30,000 to fund the youths' wages.

City Manager Iris Jessie said the city plans hire about 30 teens. Calls about the program average about 10 a day she said, and the city has received approximately 25 applications so far. Jessie said she believes the summer employment will benefit its participants.

"They'll have an idea of what it takes to thrive in their jobs," she said. "The more experienced you are, the better employee you'll be."

Job experience has to begin somewhere, she said, and "we'd like to offer individuals their first work experience."

Riverdale teens interested in the program, call Jessie at (770) 997-8989, extension 135.

For everyone else, Taylor offered a few suggestions for teen job searchers.

"I tell students looking for part-time jobs to select an area where they wish to work and apply at several businesses," she said. "After about a week, if they haven't heard from any of the places where they applied, they should call and ask if the manager had a chance to look at their application. I also tell them to remember managers will look favorably on applicants who can complete an application correctly and completely."

Once teens land an interview, Taylor said they should remember three things - appearance, attitude and manners.

At Bruster's Ice Cream on Jodeco Road in McDonough, job seekers must stand out among the competition.

Owner Christina Parker said the dessert establishment receives about 400 applications each season, which typically runs from late February to August. Applications are screened, and the interview process includes a 20-minute phone interview. When it comes down to selected crew members, Parker said potential employees participate in an "American Idol" inspired interview where they are scored on job-related skills and customer relations. But, Parker said the company isn't looking for the perfect employee. Instead, she wants to find teens Bruster's can shape into ideal workers.

"We purposely put them in successful spots," she said. "We try to build successes for them so they know what it's like and will strive for success more."

Parker said the company intentionally hires young people to offer them job experience because they are the future workforce. About 20 of 25 employees are teens, she said, and the company strives to help build its workers' self-esteem and offer them life lessons and work ethics.

Seventeen-year-old Brittany Ward joined the Bruster's team a year ago. She said wanted the job because it seemed like a good atmosphere and she liked working with people. The Eagle's Landing High School junior plans to work with children one day as a dental hygienist and she said she believes her experience at Bruster's has built her customer skills.

Other teens seem equally appreciative of their work experience.

Brandon Hopper, 18, begins his job as a cashier at Macy's in Southlake Mall on May 30. The Hampton resident and Lovejoy High senior, previously worked at IHOP and found his new job after a week of searching.

"I wanted to work during the summer to earn money for college in the fall," he said. Hopper said he's planning to gain better people skills, which will "be helpful in everyday life regardless of what I do."

Fellow Lovejoy senior Brittany Hinkle will help set up breakfast and prepare pastries along with other kitchen duties at the Grand Hyatt in Atlanta. The 17-year-old is anticipating the opportunity.

"I plan to be a pastry chef and this will give me great training," she said.