April 19, 2012
A Warrior survey conducted in late March found the unemployment rate of students at Sherwood to be 47 percent, a full 38.3 percent higher than the nation’s 8.2 percent rate.
The survey of 155 respondents defined unemployment as those who wish to have a job outside their school work but do not.
The study also found 30.9 percent of students are employed. A majority of those earn around minimum wage and work locally, commuting from five to 15 minutes to their places of employment.
Senior Rewa Kumar searched for over a year before finally landing a job in February at Kumon, a math and reading center in Olney.
“Over the summer I applied to basically every place in Olney,” said Kumar. “I applied to Olney Toys, Panera, Rite Aid, all these places and I couldn’t find anything because no one was hiring. It was really bad. I was thinking ‘why don’t I have a job? Everyone in school seems to have a job. Am I just under-qualified? What is it?’”
Those unemployed blame child labor laws, lack of work experience and a poor economy as reasons why local businesses are not hiring or refuse to hire teens. 32 percent of students felt the economy was headed in the wrong direction, while only 20.7 percent thought the economy was rebounding. About 47 percent had no opinion on the matter.
“Most of the jobs available in this area are already occupied by high school students,” said junior Devi Srinivasan. “Because of this, it seems difficult to find a job with so much competition.”
Many students also have to deal with schoolwork and often sports and extracurriculars. Looking for a job in a tight market scared off Srinivasan, who is not currently employed and is not looking for a job during the school year. She says her academic schedule (with four AP classes and three honors classes) does not allow her enough time to pursue a job.
“Right now my focus is school and I really don’t have the time right now to do a job on top of school. I really want to get into a good college and if I do well there, I can think about a job,” she said.
Among those who are employed or were previously employed over the past year, economic optimism is much higher. “There are plenty of jobs in Olney,” said senior Connor Welch. “Look at all the new stores that came into the area in the past year. Olney is probably one of the best places for high school students to get a job in the county.”
Over 70 percent of student workers held their jobs for at least three months, and 72.9 percent found work with a commute of only 15 minutes at most, the study found. Two-thirds of them make between $6 and $10 per hour and 16.6 percent make between $11 and $15.
Welch worked at GrillMarx in Olney before lacrosse season began. After the season ends, he will try to return to the restaurant in hopes of becoming a waiter. Overall, he says, Olney is a terrific place to find work.
Junior Carol Haddad is leaving her job at Giant to take an internship at Montgomery General Hospital over the summer. She became a certified nursing assistant after taking medical careers this year and is excited to bring that knowledge into a real-world setting.
But Haddad is still wary of the tough economic landscape, citing the rising gasoline prices as very problematic. “I think the economy now is headed in a bad direction because prices are getting really high, but the pay is not changing so it’s hard to afford things,” she said. “Gas is extremely high, so for now I think we’re headed in the wrong direction. Hopefully that will change.”