“This is an application for Tyson Frozen Foods,” said Justus Wise, an unemployed youth. He said it’s a job he never saw himself applying to, until now.
Wise did what kids are told to do, ‘graduate from high school, go to college and you'll get a job.’ “I got my Associate's in Automotive Repair Technology," he said proudly. The problem for Wise and many others is the last part, the promise.
After returning home to Walla Walla and not finding work, he came to the Tri-Cities. “I moved down here and thought I'd have better opportunity for employment. But it’s just as hard to find a job still."
It's a growing problem echoed across the country as unemployment rates stay stagnant. In the Tri-Cities, where the unemployment rate is three percent higher than the state average, it's an even tougher market.
“A lot of youth are competing with everyone else out in the work force,” said Katie Haney, a Work Source youth employment specialist, “lots of people that have more experience than they do.” That includes an aging population going back to work -- post retirement.
“I have some experience but not a lot, there are some people out there looking for jobs and are older more experienced, have degrees and I think that's where it's harder for me," said Kristen French, as she filled out an application.
Last summer youth unemployment peaked at 17.1%. Four million kids were out of work across the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Although two million more kids took to jobs last year, it doesn't come close to the market of 1989 when 77% of kids were employed; compare that to 60% employed in 2012.
“I have a client right now who applied to McDonald's,” said Haney. “He's had four interviews and he still has to go back for a follow up,” she said. But he's going back, and that's where employers say kids might have the upper-hand -- they can't afford to give up.
Haney suggests teens with little work history, should list qualifications they have earned at school, church or sports. Being secretary of an organization shows skills that employers are looking for and working at the school store equals cashier experience, she said.