C Gopinath

US summer jobs

C Gopinath | Updated on June 17, 2018 Published on June 17, 2018

With unemployment at 3.9%, jobs market is tight

We were visiting the Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and booked to stay at the Grant Village lodge right in the park for quick access to the park’s geo-thermal wonders. It also gave us a chance to run into the world of summer jobs.

Summer jobs are a rite of passage for many students although older workers have also been gravitating to it, either post-retirement or when in transition.

We first walked into one restaurant near our lodge for breakfast at 10 a.m. and the associate very politely said we needed to order within a minute because they were closing. This location operated limited hours and dinner was 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. He directed us to their other restaurant nearby where we waited for an hour for our food to arrive. The waiter was very apologetic, saying they had only two cooks while they needed eight. The general store in the area also operated for limited hours. All these operations were under different concessioners.

The US is currently experiencing a tight market for employment. The national unemployment rate is 3.9 per cent although it is lower in some states. Thus, many employers are having a hard time filling positions with nationals. Several private agencies provide their services for intending foreign students who want to experience a summer working in the US, all for a fee.

The Federal minimum wage is $7.25 (about ₹470) an hour and states can set higher minimums; California has the highest at $10.50 (about ₹680) an hour. With the tight market, most employers would be paying above the minimum and surveys show the average this summer to be at about $10 (about ₹650) an hour. Many are throwing in other benefits like health insurance and paid time-off.

Xanterra, the company operating the restaurants, has listed several positions on its website in its Food and Beverage department. The Director, Mr. Hoeninghausen confirmed to me the tight employment situation and they were working extra hard to fill positions. These jobs are made out to be exciting opportunities, working and enjoying the park’s facilities, for those who want to work during the season from April to October.

The student workers I ran into at the park’s facilities were enthusiastic and said they were enjoying their stay. But discussion sites on the web paint a different and somewhat mixed picture, with some happy for the opportunity to work and take advantage of the hiking, camping and natural vistas, while others complain of the long working hours and poor facilities.

The US government allows foreign students and other workers under the H2B and J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Programs to come to the US to work for the summer subject to some requirements such as age, full time student status and sufficient English proficiency. Foreign short-term visitors are an important source of workers for employers in the tourism and travel industry who need to staff positions during the peak months of the summer.

Fortunately, the federal government has allowed an increase in visas for short-term workers, responding to pressures from employers’ organisations.

(The writer is a professor at Suffolk University, Boston.)

Published on June 17, 2018

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