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MEEKER I High school students who want to prepare a nest egg for college or journey into the working world face a real dilemma.
When summer rolls around, many high school students tend to look for at least one of two things – fun and/or a job.
A teenager trying to obtain a job faces a double-edged sword. Few jobs are available locally, and employers are often reluctant to hire seasonal or part-time employees who may not always be there when needed.
With post-high-school reality approaching, high school students need to save money. When teens finally leave the nest and/or head to college, they need not only money, but they often need to have demonstrated the ability to work with a boss and co-employees, handle and save money, pay taxes and be responsible adults.
J.C. Watt, owner of Watts Ranch Market, says he gets an average of 30 to 40 teen applicants a year, but he only has three student employees currently on his payroll.
He believes it is difficult to hire a high school student because of everything a student is often involved with.
When a teenager has to be gone on weekends for sports or clubs even in the summer, they can’t work. When a teen’s parents are going to be gone for the weekend and the student must join them, they can’t work. It becomes very difficult for a student to be there, leaving the employer in a tight spot.
Also when an employer has to train a new student employee, they may be wasting their time and money. An employer will often train a student worker just before they graduate, then that student leaves for college or some other prospect.
“It’s never a waste of time for the first job,” said Ma Famiglia manager Adam Buisker. Ma Famiglia currently employs four high school students. They estimated that about 20 high school students come in looking for a job each year.
Buisker insisted that it is important for high school students to learn to work and gain skills for their future.
Cassie McGuire, owner of Parts City Auto Parts, said she also gets about 20 applicants each year while she currently employs two high school students.
She also agrees that she is teaching teenagers the skills to use in the future.
“I need my job to keep me out of trouble,” said incoming senior Brianna Holding.
“It’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time and knowing the right people,” said incoming junior Amber Holding. She just happened to be in the right place at the right time twice as she currently works at Ma Famiglia and at the Marvine Ranch.
Tayler Slaugh, also an incoming senior at Meeker High School, is currently unemployed, but not for lack of trying. He has applied at two local businesses and numerous area ranches.
Slaugh said he needs a job to pay for insurance on his vehicle and gas to get around.
At a State Farm Insurance office in Meeker, a good-student discount and a Steer Clear (allowed only if the student driver has no tickets or accidents) discount are offered, with each discount taking 20 percent of the cost of insurance. But even with those discounts, the insurance is still double that of an adult, said Jennifer Leader and Shery Brandis of State Farm.
The average insurance cost for a teenager with these discounts comes to about $250 per month, Leader and Brandis said. That brings the cost to an estimated $3,000 per year.
Currently, the average cost of one year at a four-year college is $22,092, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Gas in Meeker has been running about $3.89 per gallon. If a student fills a 30-gallon tank twice a month, that adds up to $2,800 per year, bringing the gas cost of a vehicle and an average cost for a year at college to $27,892.
With the minimum wage at $7.25 per hour, it would take 3,847 hours a year to meet those costs while the average full-time job in the United States is 2,080 hours a year.
Living without the protections afforded at home also takes money.
A student could never make enough to pay their entire way in the near future through part-time work or even full-time employment at minimum wage.
Another problem facing Meeker teens is that there is no single telephone number or location for a prospective employer to call if they are looking for an employee, nor is there a central location for teens to register or leave a number if they are looking for work.
“What this county needs is more jobs,” said one student who only wanted to be known as “John” (not his real name.) “I’ve heard it said that there are no employees available here, but I disagree.”
John said he didn’t want to give his last name because his parents expect him to stay around here and work as a ranch hand, and he does not want to do that.
“We need more jobs so we can learn how to succeed in the working world,” he said. “Then, not all the teens will be unqualified and untrained and they will know at least a part of what it takes to succeed in the working world if they want some kind of job other than rancher or oil field hand.”