Summer job scene hot in Garden City




While the sluggish economic recovery nationwide has given youths more competition than usual for a summer job, the picture is a bit more rosy for the young job seeker in Garden City.

Locally, a major restaurant chain has just opened — hiring lots of new employees — and several big box store openings loom on the horizon, in addition to general, continued growth in other sectors of the job market.

In fact, that robust outlook is what ultimately led to the recent summer job fair at Garden City High School, sponsored by the Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce for the first time this year.

Chamber President Steve Dyer said a member had been talking to the high school principal about setting up a table in the cafeteria to attract employees over the summer. That led to a conversation about the benefits of connecting youths to the business district before school lets out. The idea took hold, and in less than a month, it was a reality — and a very successful reality.

"Now we are looking at expanding it for next year and getting more people involved," Dyer said. "The employers at the fair said, 'Hey, why don't we do it again?' and then they said, 'Why don't we do that at the college, too?' So we are working with them to figure out the logistics for next year."

If everything works out, Dyer said that could lead to a job fair at each location, with more community partners and more preparatory events for students.

Nineteen businesses were involved in the last-minute event this year, most of whom said they had more opportunities right now for employment than they had last year at this same time. Many, however, also expressed that they'd like their summer workers to stick around throughout the year, even if only part-time.

Lynda Hazen, with Walmart, said the store had between 10 to 15 extra positions for the summer, but noted its peak is actually November and December.

JC Penney, similarly, has openings going into the summer vacation season, but won't begin to really ramp up hiring until the back-to-school and Christmas shopping seasons hit. Rachelle Schneider said JC Penney likely would add 35 to 40 new people going into the holidays, a challenge considering the number of new big box stores on the horizon.

Liz Scheopner said summer is a busier time for her family-owned water conditioning business. Last year, it made do without any part-time help, but this year she's decided to add a few people to help out, seeing that the economy is going so well in Garden City.

Richard Taylor, with Office Solutions, said his business has more positions open this year than last, but isn't looking to hire just for summer. He'd like to have three, maybe four for the summer, who will stick around part-time during the school year.

Dionicio Rivera, assistant general manager for Samy's, was taking applications for that business as well as others owned by Amro Samy. The table was popular with the students, even though most of the positions had been filled.

Rivera said Samy's generally hires about 12 additional positions for the banquet facility during the summer, as it gets considerably busier during the wedding season, and that he continues to take applications in case of turnover.

Black Hills Energy also did not have immediate openings, but Sarah Hundemann, among those manning the table for the business, said the company is coming up on a "retirement cliff" and hopes to develop relationships with students now for that eventuality.

Kelsey Billingsly with Builders+ Concrete out of Wichita said she was seeking seniors for summer employment — but unfortunately she had been told the job fair was scheduled on senior skip day. Nevertheless, she said the company has a number of positions for students 18 and older whose plans may not include immediately going off to college.

"I think it's definite, there's a market out there, and there are opportunities there for the job seeker, and so that's good for anyone seeking summer employment," Dyer said. "Our unemployment rate is pretty low, so it's a job seeker's market right now."

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