As teens head back to school, group says young workers needed to fill workforce needs

Live 5 WCSC
July 18, 2021

As teens head back to school, group says young workers needed to fill workforce needs

By Logan Reigstad

WANDO, S.C. (WCSC) – The start of another school year is just weeks away, meaning many teens and young adults who picked up a summer job could be leaving that work behind as they head back to the classroom.

At the Lowco Café in Wando, manager Christina Corsino said she’ll be losing half of her workers when three of them go back to school.

“I think it’s just common in (the) food and bev(erage industry) that you’re constantly re-staffing, kids going to school or finding something else or moving, so we’re kind of used to that,” she said.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to changes in the school year, which kept kids in school later into the summer, shortening their availability, she added.

Restaurants and other industries – especially at the lower wage levels — are still struggling to fill openings, Frank Knapp from the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce said.

“We are in this declining labor pool and we need more training for those who are here, better education for those that are here, but we need new, young working adults to be here, and the only place that we’re going to get them are from other countries – legally – to come here to be the innovators, to be the laborers,” he said.

Knapp said the state’s decision to end pandemic unemployment benefits early has not helped solve the worker shortage but has taken tens of millions of dollars out of local economies.

The state’s Department of Employment and Workforce, though, said it’s too early to measure the effects of that move and that the overall unemployment picture is continuing to improve.

South Carolina’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate fell a tenth of a point in June from the previous month.

“Whenever the unemployment rate is measured, it’s measured for the week that includes the 12th day of the month, so when we talk about the June unemployment rate, we’re looking at the week that includes June 12,” Brian Nottingham, the director of business intelligence and labor market information for DEW, said. “We cut off the enhanced federal benefits June 28th, so technically speaking the direct impact of shutting those off isn’t captured this month.”

For now, Lowco Café is getting creative, turning to social media to help fill its openings. Corsino is hoping to find three full-time employees.

A shortage, “…puts pressure on my more long-term employees,” she said. “I’m sort of used to it being in the manager role. I’ve always been used to filling in whenever I’m needed.”

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