Seasonal work available in metro Detroit, but supervisors struggle to find applicants

Posted at 5:39 AM, Apr 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-16 07:06:21-04

(WXYZ) — As the weather gets nicer and the school year nears a close, this is usually a busy time for older teens looking to earn some extra cash.

But even as Michigan re-opens, they seem to be lingering outside of the workforce.

Take the restaurant industry, for example, battling this problem at the national level too. According to the National Restaurant and Lodging Association, four in ten fast-casual, casual, or family dining operators report they have jobs they're finding difficult to fill.

According to the NRLA, part of the challenge is that two-thirds of the restaurant industry's workforce is in the 16-34 age group and that labor pool has fallen by 2 million people.

“A challenge is probably understating it. I mean there are some days we’re burning out staff. We’ve just begun closing on Sundays now just to keep the current staff we have," said Lisa Walters, operating partners at Mootz Pizzeria.

Usually, she said, finding staff isn't this hard.

“We need pizza makers, we need our line cooks, some dishwashers, bartenders, servers," she said.

And Walters isn't alone, there's "Help Wanted" and "We're Hiring" signs at fast food and sit-down restaurants all around metro Detroit.

Spring is also usually when parks departments look for seasonal help, often targeting teens preparing for college or the job market.

“We have approximately 300 vacancies we’re looking to fill," said interim executive officer with Oakland County Parks, Sue Wells.

“Pre-pandemic, in no way were we this short of staff," she said. "We could fully operate our golf courses and right now we are having to adjust hours.”

Oakland County Parks needs 83 lifeguards in order to fully operate its two water parks; Red Oaks in Madison Heights and Waterford Oaks in Waterford.

As of now they only have 17 returning, with only 46 new applications in for this season.

“I think one reason and maybe the primary reason is because of COVID. The fear of being with the public. Our challenge is, where do people go because of COVID? They go outdoors, they go to the parks," Wells said.

Starting next week, Oakland County Parks will host hiring fairs at each park location and will conduct interviews on-site. You can also apply for open positions online.

Pre-COVID, the City of Detroit Parks and Recreation Department staffed 55 lifeguards but now is down to 35. Due to the pandemic, indoor pools won't be opening this summer.

Brennan Pool, an outdoor pool will be open seven days a week starting June 21. That department is also looking to hire additional help for this summer.

Walters said COVID-related concerns have also impacted some staff member's desire to return to Mootz, along with some employees collecting extra unemployment from the state. Extended jobless benefits expire Saturday in Michigan.

“Whether they are a dishwasher, whether they are babysitting, whether they’re mowing lawns, or whether they’re considering a possible career internship where they may not be paid, but they’re getting an experience," explained Eva Dodds with Collegewise Metro Detroit.

Dodds advise for young people looking to work? Adjust your exceptions to fit the pandemic. Paid internships at traditional offices might not be on the table for a while, but employers and colleges are looking for transferable skills like time management and problem-solving; things you can learn in just about any setting.

The hourly rate for a job with Oakland County Parks starts at around $10 and goes up to around $17 depending on the job.

“It’s an opportunity to work outdoors, it’s an opportunity to work with peers, and actually to have fun," Wells said.