Businesses turn to teenagers amidst worker shortage

LIBERTY LAKE, Wash. – Businesses are doing whatever they can to find employees. Some are offering incentives while others say they’ll give you transportation to get to work.

Ridgeline High in the Central Valley School District held a job fair for more than 30 employers to talk with teenagers about summer jobs and careers. Businesses like Silverwood Theme Park are hiring teens as young as 14-years-old.

While applying for jobs, junior Romy Robinson says she’s aware that there’s a worker shortage.

“It definitely feels like I have a better shot at getting whatever job I want. Makes me feel more needed in the workspace,” Robinson said.

“I think with the worker shortage, it allows us for more opportunity since we have a little bit less experience than people who might be older than us,” said junior Lily Pesnell. “It opens up a lot of doors. I think it gives them more likely chance of us getting chosen.”

The need for workers is crucial for some businesses. Kelli Demarest, the worksite learning coordinator for Ridgeline High, said she had several businesses cancel from attending the job fair. She was told they didn’t have enough people at work to be able to have another person talk with students at a job fair booth.

“We’re in this crucial time right now where our community businesses really need employees. They’re in a unique place in history where they’re willing to hire teenagers,” Demarest said.

Both Silverwood Theme Park and Wagstaff, a manufacturing and engineering company, say it’s been a challenge trying to hire staff.

Silverwood is specifically looking to hire around 1,500 people for the season.

“Not as many people are accepting positions. It’s kind of like, it’s the buyer’s market. They can be more picky and choosy who they work for because wages are so high around the area,” said Michele Sheets, the human resources director for Silverwood.

In order to attract more workers, especially with inflation and high gas prices, Silverwood is offering transportation for workers living in Liberty Lake, Post Falls, Rathdrum, Coeur d’Alene and Hayden.

“We’re hoping that’ll be really successful,” Sheets said.

Heather Brandt, the human resources assistant manager at Wagstaff, says she knows applicants have the upper hand at this point in the job market. They’re doing what they can to hire more people and are open to helping students grow and learn within their company.

“We’re encouraging students to take a look at manufacturing as a potential career opportunity,” she said.

READ: ‘It is a struggle’: Washington, Idaho gas prices hit record highs