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Idaho labor shortage has employers looking to hire younger

The Idaho Department of Labor is hosting a Teen and Young Adult job fair at Wahooz in Meridian from 11 am - 2 pm on Saturday. The focus is on 16-24 years olds.

BOISE, Idaho — With a tight labor market in Idaho and summer approaching, employing teenagers and young adults may be the need to help ease some of the workforce shortage.

The latest data from the Idaho Department of Labor showed the Gem State's unemployment rate hit a historic low of 2.7% in March. However, regional economists said employers around the state continue to have trouble filling positions. 

"There are definitely not enough workers right now for the growth rate that we have going on in Idaho," said Jan Roeser, a regional economist for the Idaho Department of Labor.

Roeser said the number of online jobs posted in southwestern Idaho, which includes 10 counties like Ada and Canyon, is somewhere around 18,000, which is an increase of 10% compared to last April. She added the civilian labor force is also up 4.5%.

"There's always going to be more job openings than there is the workforce necessary to fill it because that's just the nature of the job with part-time jobs," Roeser said.

It's having employers look to hire people that may have been once overlooked, like teens and young adults. Especially as this demographic heads out on break from school and are looking to stay busy.

"That's a time when there's a lot of camps, there's a lot of recreational activities that parks and recreation put on and they all need part-time workers," Roeser said.

The 16 to 24-year-old age range is a group that's seen a decline in the participation rate in the civilian labor force over the last 10-20 years, according to Roeser.

"Kids now have a lot more attention from their parents and they find that they are dedicated towards sports, camps in the summer and after-school activities," Roeser said. 

Roeser said teens and young adults are now getting jobs later in life.

"It is important for teens and younger people to have that initial experience in a part-time job," Roeser said. She added it teaches them soft skills, like, dependability, communication, solving problems, and more.

However, with workforce shortages and the job market now an employee's market, Roeser said right now is an opportunity for young people to take advantage of seasonal positions.

To help meet the need and introduce employers to younger applicants, the Idaho Department of Labor is hosting a Teen and Young Adult job fair at Wahooz in Meridian on Saturday from 11 am - 2 pm. More than 30 employers will be there, like Bogus Basin and Brundage Mountain Resort. 

"We hire about 100 summer seasonal employees," said Susan Saad, the director of community and customer relations at Bogus Basin. "We are looking for great potential employees right now for a variety of positions up on the mountain."

Saad said hiring younger people is nothing new for the recreation area, they hire people as young as 15 years old. However, she said hoping to hire a full staff for this summer which this demographic may help fill, especially after the labor shortage was felt in a few of their departments over the winter season which affected their lodging hours.

"We have a great team environment and it's a fun place," Saad said. "We offer free transportation for all our employees. They get a summer season pass, they get discounts on food and retail."

According to a news release from Bogus, they are looking to hire positions like summer activities operators, trail crew, ticket sellers, maintenance, environmental education staff, food and beverage workers and more. 

Bogus' opening date for the summer season is June 10.

Rachel Wessel, the HR manager with Brundage, said while the resort is about 75% staffed for summer, they've seen fewer applicants compared to previous years. She said they're also confident their summer staffing need will be filled. They hire teens as young as 14-16 years.

Wessel said because of housing affordability in the area the resort also has incentives like housing for some employees. Brundage rents out by the room to employees, which they must apply for when they apply for a job. They are working on creating more housing for employees that will available by this winter season.

"It makes us even more of a great place to work," Wessel said. "We already provide a great fun environment. It's a great adventure if you don't already live near here to come to live here for a season or maybe longer."

Wessel said they're looking for bike patrol and kitchen employees, like prep cooks, line cooks and dishwashers.

Brundage's opening date for the summer season is June 17.

Roeser said her best piece of advice to teens and young adults looking to apply for a seasonal job is to dress up a bit, bring a resume that has any experience (previous jobs, clubs at school, achievements, etc.) and be prepared to do an interview on the spot.

"They need you more so than you need them almost at this point," Roeser said. "They are realizing that they need to make things just a little bit easier for people to come on board. Many are hoping to hire people right there at the job fair."

The Department of Labor will also have a Youth Regulations Workshop right before the job fair, from 10 am to 11 am. The office will put on training for employers to brush up on laws that apply to teenage employees.

Roeser mentioned that the focus of the job fair is on 16-24-year-olds, anyone looking for employment is welcome on Saturday.

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