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Welcome to the Real World--Local Businesses Promote Jobs to Students

Working as a lifeguard over the summer has been a job held by teens for years, but now they're sought after more than ever. (Photo Collage by Emma Duncan)

By Emma Duncan--Eagle Editor

As if homework, extracurriculars, responsibilities, and college preparation wasn’t enough, many students also begin working during their high school years to make some extra cash. While local businesses continue to heal from the pandemic, they’ve reached out to the community, especially high schoolers, to find new employees.

Earlier in the school year, Carilion Clinic sent an email to teachers encouraging students to apply.

“Carilion Clinic would like to take the opportunity to raise awareness about the many career options within healthcare,” the email read. “This booklet will help you advise your students on a path to healthcare, specifically learning about qualifications required for many positions and positions where your student can begin working right away.”

Reaching Eagles through email became a popular communication method this year. It was also used by Franklin County Parks and Recreation regarding a need for lifeguards, tube rental workers, and umpires/officials for youth athletic games. Nikki Custer, Athletics and Aquatics Manager for the division, outlined the details.

“Applicants for a lifeguard will be interviewed. If they are offered a position, they must complete the Red Cross Lifeguard Certification class [which] Parks and Recreation will pay for ($325) and the applicant must agree to sign a contract that they will work the entire summer since we are paying for training. The pay for lifeguards is $14 an hour,” Custer explained. “We rely heavily on students to officiate soccer, basketball, baseball, and softball. Cindy Traylor trains and hires all of our officials. If you are interested, you can reach out to her at [Anyone with] questions about any of our jobs can contact [me] at”

Both of these jobs require certain qualities in candidates.

“The ideal candidate has reliable transportation, a good work ethic, and works well as a team member. We require someone attentive, good with people, a good teammate, [and] comfortable with being outdoors,” Custer continued.

Parks and Rec aren't the only ones seeking such candidates. The Franklin Center hosted a job fair Tuesday, April 12 for area businesses, open to all in the community. Many employers were specifically seeking potential hires age 14+ to help grow their business, including McDonald's. In fact, Amanda Jeffers, People Department Manager for the company, began working there when she was a teenager.

From left to right: Amanda Rucker, Amanda Jeffers, and Makayla Peters represented Rocky Mount McDonald's at the Franklin Center job fair. (Photo by Emma Duncan)

“I started here at 14 and worked my way up. All of our managers started as crew and we always promote from within,” she emphasized. “We pride ourselves on our hospitality. We’re really good about working with people’s schedules - sports, clubs, all of that. I think we are a great company to work for, obviously. The owner and her dad are good people. We’re all really friendly.”

McDonald’s also supports their students by offering a college scholarship program called Archways to Opportunity which offers $2,500 for crew and $3,000 for managers every year. In order to earn this, crew members must average 20 work hours per week and managers need to hold their title for 90 days.

Many other featured companies also work closely with the community, but they aim to keep their customers feeling well instead of well-fed.

“We are aiming to hire high school graduates [and] anyone with CNA experience,” Brian Moore, Regional Coordinator for Piedmont Community Services said. “That isn’t required though. We have several state guidelines and training that they can utilize if they want to pursue the healthcare field. We provide education and medication management. [We look for] somebody who has a nurturing personality and enjoys working with people, specifically people with intellectual disabilities.”

Reportedly, local careers in the medical field are popular with students on campus.

“Three or four of your classmates already work for us,” shared Tyler Lee, Director of Marketing for Rocky Mount Health and Rehabilitation Center. “Health care students have done their clinical at our locations before but they can also work in the maintenance department, housekeeping, in the kitchens, pretty much whatever someone wants to do. As long as we have parental consent we can hire anyone 17 and up. Within the clinical side, we would love for you to have at least a PCA [Personal Care Assistant training], which is an eight-hour course online and we can help folks facilitate that.”

On the other hand, some jobs were more physically demanding.

“[Hiring high schoolers] is something we’ve done in the past. They would come in and do our later deliveries after school, but through the summer if someone’s interested they should come see us,” Jason Honeycutt, BC Operations Manager for Virginia Furniture Market explained. ”They could be doing in-home delivery, setting up furniture in a customer’s home, or working in the warehouse unloading boxes and things of that nature. It’s all day every day carrying things up flights of stairs and down hallways.”

Representatives from Virginia Western Community College also came to the Franklin Center to advertise their classes. (Photo by Emma Duncan)

In addition to these companies, Empire Bakery, Ameristaff, and several representatives from Franklin County were also in need of workers, but their applicants typically needed to be 18+.

One booth wasn’t advertising job opportunities at all. Instead, TRIO helps high school students get into college to prepare for a lifelong career.

“We help students go to a 2 or 4-year college. We will provide scholarship listings, FAFSA help, admissions scholarship help, and anything that is geared toward the college process,” listed Jentonia Wilson, EOC Education Specialist. “All of our services are free and I think it's a good opportunity. We never turn anyone away.”

Wilson not only works for TRIO, but she is also a previous student who used their services.

“I will always advocate for TRIO because if it wasn't for them and Upward Bound then I wouldn’t have gone to a 4-year college,” she testified. “I got the resources that I needed as a first-generation, low-income [college student] and that is their target area. Those students who have no clue what to do to go as far as going to college, we are the people to help them get there.”

About two weeks later, on Wednesday, April 27, another job fair, specifically for high school students, took place in Central Gym from 3:30-6:00 pm. Numerous businesses, some being previous representatives at the Franklin Center, attended in hopes of persuading Eagles to apply.

Some businesses, such as Lowe's, FedEx, and Price Buildings, Inc, required applicants to be at least 18 years old, but in turn, offered eye-catching benefits.

Informational flyers were sent through the school weeks before the Central Gym job fair persuading students to attend. (Courtesy Photo)

“Right now [we’re looking] for package handlers,” Tiffany LaPrade, Senior Operations Admin of Human Resources at FedEx, explained. “You get tuition assistance, which is the biggest thing we use to bring people in. This is immediate as soon as you start. All you have to do is supply us with passing grades and the amount is $5,250 per year. That is for part- and full-timers.”

Other employers emphasized that manual labor and construction-based skillsets come with advantages employers say can’t be found anywhere else.

“The benefits would be learning a new skill set that they can definitely take into their future lives, especially things that could potentially break around the house or on their vehicle. You’ll always have a job anywhere when you learn a trade,” contended Thomas Barrett, General Superintendent of Price Building Inc.

Most other companies, including Chick-Fil-A, Camp Bethel, and Homestead Creamery, were looking for employees aged 15+.

Jason Wavell, Director of Human Resources for Homestead Creamery, elaborated. “This year we have substantial students who are graduating and going up and on to college so while we have some students to fill their positions it’s time to find a whole new generation of Homestead Creamery employees to continue to carry the torch. Generally, once you start working in the store you learn a bit about every department but eventually, you’ll have a specific area of concentration.”

One company didn’t just accept teenage employees; they needed them.

“We are currently looking for senior and junior counselors so that we can safely run summer camp and this is really our target age to hire,” Kathleen Nettnin, Program Coordinator at Camp Bethel, shared. “Pay for senior counselors [18+] is $2,220 for six weeks and junior counselors [16-17] can make $1,440.”

The two hiring events reflect local employers' belief that Eagles can play a valuable role in their labor needs. Wavell said best. Whether full-time or part-time, seasonal or permanent, "high schoolers have had a phenomenal impact over the years.”

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