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Summer job market takes hit from COVID-19

  • Peterborough Recreation Department lifeguards Liam McCall and Nikki Bell survey the waters at Cunningham Pond on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Peterborough Recreation Department staff at Cunningham Pond on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Carter Hunt works the line at Kimball Farm in Jaffrey on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Employees work the line at Kimball Farm in Jaffrey on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Employees work the line at Kimball Farm in Jaffrey on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Peterborough Recreation Department staff at Cunningham Pond on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Peterborough Recreation Department staff at Cunningham Pond on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Peterborough Recreation Department staff at Cunningham Pond on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Employees work the line at Kimball Farm in Jaffrey on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 6/10/2020 4:12:40 PM
Modified: 6/10/2020 4:12:30 PM

For local high school and college students looking for summer work, the local job market looks a little different than it has in years past.

With the coronavirus pandemic forcing industries to change the way they operate and limiting some of the services provided, a number of businesses have been forced to cut the number of employees it needs, while others won’t be needing any at all. But it’s not all doom and gloom for those seeking to make money over the summer while school is on break because there are still places hiring – there will just be more competition to land work.

“For a youth, it’s hard to find a job if you don’t have one lined up,” said Lisa Hunt, general manager of Kimball Farm in Jaffrey. “And I feel bad for those kids who want a job and need money.”

Kimball Farm is well established as a place where high school and college students can spend their summers scooping ice cream and frying seafood, but with limitations on what restaurants can offer has forced Hunt to cut the number of employees needed. She said she was able to accommodate every employee that wanted to come back from last year, but didn’t hire anyone new this year.

“I probably have a third of the staff I had last year, maybe close to half,” Hunt said.

Without a dining room full of people on a daily basis and the need to keep employees socially distancing, Hunt said the way things operate at Kimballs is very different.

If someone is handling money that is all they do. She can’t staff her kitchen like she used to despite the fact that business at the longtime Jaffrey seasonal eatery is just as busy. New duties have been created, like monitoring lines to ensure customers are keeping the proper distances, sanitizing picnic tables after use and a more thorough approach to cleaning bathrooms, and that means more people on each shift. But it hasn’t meant the need for more employees – at least not at this time.

“I don’t need anyone right now, but my needs could change,” Hunt said.

Kimball Farm has reduced its hours to 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and didn’t even put out all its picnic tables in an effort to follow the guidelines of people staying six feet apart.

Hunt said its been hard to say no to siblings and friends of current employees, and hopes she will see a need for more staff as the summer goes on and restrictions change.

“I still accept every application and encourage everyone to fill one out,” Hunt said.

At Barrett Hill Farm in Mason, owner Beth LeClair said she typically has about 10 high school and college students employed in a given summer and hasn’t seen a need to reduce the number of employees. In fact, LeClair said on Tuesday that she is currently hiring because of all the extra steps that come with guidance from the state and protocols they’ve put in place.

“There’s been an increase in people looking for work,” LeClair said.

She said it’s been easier to schedule in anticipation of opening for the season as students have been more flexible with their availability due to remote learning and coming home early from college. With pick your own strawberries set to begin on Monday, LeClair said she’s hoping to fill her available positions soon to ensure the season starts off with the necessary amount of staff.

Lisa Koziell-Betz, recreation director for the town of Peterborough, said she has seen all kinds of applications for the summer, but has yet to bring anyone in for interviews. With so many unknowns about how the summer is going to look and a number of staff looking to return this year, she hasn’t found a need to make any new hires because she doesn’t even have enough work for those who were coming back.

“It all depends on how things open up,” Koziell-Betz said.

Right now, the only needs are at Cunningham Pond and those hours are being filled by returning employees who make up the bath house and lifeguard staff.

Koziell-Betz said she generally has about 50 employees for the summer between maintenance, the bath house, lifeguards and the summer camp programs. But with the summer camp already canceling the first four weeks and the remainder of the summer up in the air, along with the opening of the pool, Koziell-Betz isn’t sure what her staffing needs will look like.

And even if she does need to bring new employees on, that will require extra training to adhere to guidelines and protocols.

“You need time to train them, especially in a COVID environment,” she said.

Koziell-Betz said she told returning staff members that she doesn’t have hours for not to wait in the hopes of a change.

“If things open up, we’ll reach out,” she said. “The demand would be there, but all of it’s going to take time.”


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